Q. What is the role of constructive and reconstructive processes in human memory? Explain. (CSE 2014-15 marks)
Model answer Hints :
Our memory system is constructive and reconstructive by nature. Many of the informations we learn don’t remain the same as the time passes. They undergo changes. Unlike Ebbinghaus who attempted to quantify the loss of material as a function of time, Bartlett, a British psychologist emphasized the qualitative changes that come in our memory as a function of time.
Everything is not forgotten as the time passes. Some meaningful things remain their for long. Moreover, we don’t forget everything with uniform rate.
In this connection, Elizabeth Loftus , in her studies on eyewitness, proved the construction of false memory and distortion of memory.
Let’s try to understand the role of construction and reconstruction processes in human memory.
Helper of the cognitive misers? : we find that “inferences about the past incidents ” are constructed on the basis of information and schema. We don’t store inferences but informations .
Moreover, researches show that even false memories, that are consistent with the knowledge schema of the person, are constructed without conscious awareness. When asked, what was the reason of the fire, most subjects in a study replied ” carelessly discarded cigarette” because they had been told about a person who discarded cigarette near a grassy land. But subjects were never told that there was any fire.
Construction is the bases for logical reasoning and inferences from the past which connect with the current informations. This way, construction and reconstruction processes are effort saver( we don’t save inferences) & cognitive empowering ( creating missing details).
Motivation & emotional adaptor :
Secondly, we find that a lot of omission and commission in the memory takes place just to keep our cognitive and emotional system balanced as both systems interact . For example, informations inconsistent with our stereotypes (over-generalized beliefs) get lost more readily that the consistent informations. Moreover, memory gets distorted towards better coherence of our mind. Construction and reconstruction process are thus ” cognitive-emotional balancer”.
Thirdly, If we analyse the cases of amnesia, some of the cases like fugue( loss of memory of the part of an episode), we find the some emotionally adaptive roles of selective forgetting. Such omission or distortion provide some relief from some traumatic incidents. Normal forgetfulness is also consistent along this line. ( Freud. S. ” motivated forgetting).
We thus can say that some roles of constructive and reconstructive processes are adaptive but some changes are not desirable and are thus maladaptive too.