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Bartlett (1932) – “War of the Ghost”
Transcript of Bartlett (1932) – “War of the Ghost”
A significant researcher into schemas, Bartlett (1932) introduced the idea of schemas in his study entitled “The War of the Ghost.”
Participants used were of an English background.
Were asked to read “The War of the Ghosts” – a Native American folk tale.
Tested their memory of the story using serial reproduction and repeated reproduction, where they were asked to recall it six or seven times over various retention intervals.
Serial reproduction: the first participant reading the story reproduces it on paper, which is then read by a second participant who reproduces the first participant’s reproduction, and so on until it is reproduced by six or seven different participants.
Repeated reproduction: the same participant reproduces the story six or seven times from their own previous reproductions. Their reproductions occur between time intervals from 15 minutes to as long as several years.
Both methods lead to similar results.
As the number of reproductions increased, the story became shorter and there were more changes to the story.
For example, ‘hunting seals’ changed into ‘fishing’ and ‘canoes’ became ‘boats’.
These changes show the alteration of culturally unfamiliar things into what the English participants were culturally familiar with,
This makes the story more understandable according to the participants’ experiences and cultural background (schemas).
He found that recalled stories were distorted and altered in various ways making it more conventional and acceptable to their own cultural perspective (rationalization).
Memory is very inaccurate
It is always subject to reconstruction based on pre-existing schemas
Bartlett’s study helped to explain through the understanding of schemas when people remember stories, they typically omit (”leave out”) some details, and introduce rationalisations and distortions, because they reconstruct the story so as to make more sense in terms of their knowledge, the culture in which they were brought up in and experiences in the form of schemas.
Bartlett did not explicitly ask participants to be as accurate as possible in their reproduction
Experiment was not very controlled
instructions were not standardized (specific)
disregard for environmental setting of experiment
Bartlett aimed to determine how social and cultural factors influence schemas and hence can lead to memory distortions.
Bartlett's study shows how schema theory is useful for understand how people categorize information, interpret stories, and make inferences.
It also contributes to understanding of cognitive distortions in memory.