Reconstruct information in memory

Studies of long term memory and the retrieval process presents evidence supporting a model of memory in which meaning plays a central role. Just as we actively interpret information that produces perceptions, we also actively construct and reconstruct information in memory. Memories are not just inscribed on a static microchip in the mind, but rather they are units within an integrated knowledge system that is constantly undergoing transformation and change.

According to the schema-plus-tag model (Graesser & Nakamura (1982)), the memory representation for a specific event includes both the general schema and distinctive markers or labels which help to ‘flag’ highlights or unexpected aspects of the event. This could certainly be true for eye-witness testimony. Schank (1981) also proposed Memory Organisation Packets (MOP’s) which makes provision for storing memories for specific episodes in addition to the general schemas. This also helps account for everyday memory representations.

Together such proposals help to maximise the number of possible retrieval routes. Our schema enables us to associate incoming information with existing information. When people remember a particular scene they are influenced by the appropriate schema for such a scene. Generally people remember things that fit the schema and forget things which do not fit. Given that most of our experiences involve familiar objects and events, remembering is partly a matter of updating previously established memories.

For example new information regarding one of our friends or colleagues results in an update of our previously stored knowledge. Eye-witness testimony has to fit within existing framework of our experiences and therefore does draw upon the same kinds of memory representations as are used for recalling other scenes or events, although different characteristics and features of memory come into being as previously highlighted and described above.


Cohen, Kiss, Le Voi (2001), ‘Memory – current issues’ 2nd Edition, Open University

Eysenck, M. & Keane, T. (2001), ‘Cognitive Psychology, a student’s handbook’, 4th Edition, Psychology Press

Eysenck, M. (2001), ‘Principles of Psychology’, 2nd Edition, Psychology Press

Norman, Donald M. (1976), ‘Memory and Attention – An introduction to human information processing’, Wiley

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Two factors, which can influence reconstructive memory, is past experience or previous knowledge (Schemas). Schemas are knowledge packages built up through experience of the world, which can aid the interpretation of new information. Due to previous experiences one would be …

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