Schema Theory Of Eyewitness Testimony

1311 Words6 Pages
Cognitive level of analysis studies cognition, cognition means that it is involved with thinking, knowing, remembering and communicating. This includes memory, which is an important cognitive process specially when looking into eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony is a legal expression signified to an incident people have witnessed such as, it might be an accident on the road people have seen and need to give their account. Juries in a court case pay extremely close attention to the eyewitness testimony and typically find it a reliable source of information however; it can be affected by psychological influences like leading questions, schemas and reconstructive memory.

Schema theory, which was introduced by Bartlett, is a cognitive
…show more content…
Like a jigsaw puzzle; such as an interviewer may ask a person in a crime scene to assemble pieces of memory of the traumatic event. Frederic Bartlett’s theory of reconstructive memory helps us understand the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Bartlett says that memory recall is focused to subjective interpretation reliant on our cultural norms, values and the awareness of the world we have. Memory is believed to work like a camera, we store information like the camera is recording and playing the clip back is like remembering what was recorded; in the same format it was set. Though it doesn’t work like a camera as people construct and store information in a manner that makes it understanding to them. People do this to information by trying to put it in our schemas. Schemas can also question the reliability of eyewitness testimony, as they can cause distortion to memory or unconsciously modify information in order to relate with our current knowledge/ schemas. This can be seen in Bartlett’s study, where participants heard a story and had to recall and tell to another person, like “Chinese Whispers”. Each participant recalled the story in their individual interpretation such as; the passages became shorter, ideas and details of the story were modified. This suggests that each individual person reconstructs our own memories to conform to our personal beliefs about the world. This brings back to the idea that memories aren’t reliable but in fact they have been constructed according to our beliefs and stereotypes. This can also be seen in Allport and Postman’s study where participants were asked to recall details of a picture. The participants stated that the black man was the person who was holding the razor when in reality it was the white man. This demonstrated that our memories are actively being
Open Document