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Evaluate the extent to which a cognitive process is reliable

Memory is not a “tape recorder” or an exact replica of what happened, but rather a “reconstruction”. Schema theory can explain why this happens. Reconstructive memory indicates that memory is only reliable to some extent.

Cognitive researchers have found that memories are not fixed and can be lost, changed, or even created. Memories may also be scrambled in the process of retrieving them and they can be manipulated (Loftus, 2003). Eyewitness testimony has been found to be incorrect on numerous occasions where DNA has revealed that the wrong person was convicted. All this indicates that memory is not always reliable.

We tend to remember the overall meaning (gist) of something and we reconstruct the information to some extent when we retrieve it.

Sometimes memory is distorted for personal reasons, for example to enhance our own importance (self-serving bias).

Reasons for inaccuracies in memory could be:

·         Memory is reconstructive (e.g. Bartlett, 1932) and information processing is schema driven.

·         Memories are constructed after the fact and they are susceptible to post-event information and manipulations (e.g. Loftus and Palmer, 1974).

Studies to use: Bartlett (1932) and Loftus and Palmer (1974)