Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Other Essay To End All Essays

Well last week I posted the latest essay I did for my psychology course. Which I still feel I majorly fucking failed at. I used the wrong evidence and I was in a rush and what have you. Anyway, when I was done with that I said if people were interested in reading my first essay I'd happily post it. People were interested, I missed my therapy appointment due to ill health (it's been rescheduled for Friday, as I said to Suzy when she called me to check on me, what's the point in going to therapy if you can't talk?), and I don't have anything better to do so here is that essay. It's about memory and recall. Which is kinda funny because I don't remember much of what I put in it.

This essay will look at the question of how the use of mental images, concepts, and schemas to organise our thoughts can help improve our memory. In order to do this what a mental image, concept, and schema are will be looked at, as well as how they help with memory recall.

A mental image is an image formed in the brain when thinking of something. By applying an image to something, we give ourselves an extra cue when we try to recall the information. We can think of, or see, the image associated with the thought, and follow the pattern back to the original thought. Also, forming a picture of something in our head takes effort, and the extra effort involved in doing this helps imprint the image and the information associated with it into the brain. An example of this would be the key word technique (Spoors, et al 2011) which is when a person associates a word with an image. It is particularly useful when learning a new language. A person will think of a word in a foreign language, and then think of words that sound like it in their native language. After doing this they will then form a mental image of the native words. By remembering the mental image of the words they can remember the foreign words easier. Michael Raugh and Richard Atkinson (1975, cited in Spoors et al 2011) would develop the key word technique and then proceed to perform an experiment in which they gave two groups of participants sixty Spanish words. They were told to memorise them and half of them were taught the key word technique. At the end of the experiment they discovered that the people who used the key word technique scored on average eighty eight percent, while the people who did not only scored twenty eight percent. This proves that the key word technique, which employs mental images, does help in mental recall.

Another way in which we can improve our memory is the usage of concepts. A concept is when we associate certain characteristics or properties to a group of objects or events (Spoors, et al 2011) and is used to define things, and place them in to categories. They can be slightly flawed though as some things share similar characteristics, but do not fall in to the same category or concept. This type of confusion is mostly prevalent in children. This is called overgeneralisation (Spoors et al, 2011). An experiment performed by Weston Bousfield (1953, cited in Spoors et al, 2011) looked at how concepts improve memory recall. He asked participants to learn sixty words that could be divided into four categories. Even though they were given a random set of words, they tended to remember them in groups, which proved they had categorised the information. To add to this, they could usually remember more words from a group when they were given a category name. This shows that the information was processed, but they could not remember it without a cue.

Another experiment, performed by George Mandler (1976, cited in Spoors et al, 2011) suggests that by categorising information, we learn it without making any conscious effort to do so. He gave two groups one hundred cards each with each card having a word on it. He told them to organise the words into groups and told half of the participants to memories the words as well as organise them. When tested, both groups remembered roughly the same amount of words, proving that even though they made no effort to memorise them they were able to do it by organising them. This helps prove that by organising information into categories, we can help improve our ability to recall it.

A final way in which we process information is to form a schema. A schema is essentially a mental filing cabinet. We store knowledge gained from past experience in schemas and access them when needed. By storing information like this we provide ourselves with cues and when information is stored cleanly like this, it is organised and therefore easier to recall.

Schemas can help us deal with the world better by allowing us to draw on past experiences to decide how to act in new situations. Although the knowledge we hold in our schemas will be shared with other people who have had similar experiences, our schemas may be different to theirs. If the subject is one that interests us, we will have far more information stored about it than someone who is indifferent, or does not like the subject. This is because our experiences with the subject are different. John Bransford and Marcia Johnson (1972, cited in Spoors et al, 2011) carried out experiments to show how we use schemas to understand and store information, as well as recall it.

One such experiment involved a group of participants being given a complicated passage of text, and being asked to recall it as accurately as possible. Half of the participants were also given a title for the passage, while the other half were just given the passage. Most people would have difficulty even understanding the passage, let alone recalling it accurately, but when given a title to it, everything fell into place. The passage was the process of washing clothes explained in a technical and complicated manner. By being given the passage title Washing Clothes, they were able to better process the information. The title gave the participants a schema and they could store and recall the information more accurately because of it.

In conclusion the experiments performed provide evidence that using mental images, concepts, and schemas can improve memory recall, as well as how information is processed. Mental images provide associations with objects, allowing the use of those objects to help in recall. Concepts group information together making it easier to remember clusters of information by remembering part of the group. Finally, schemas are used to properly process information, helping in later recall.


You can't tell because I hit the enter key a few times but my tutor was right, that thing DID need more paragraphs.


  1. I think that you've done a great job with this Mark although in all honesty I thought that the first was very well written too. This has improved upon it though so just keep up with the good work buddy. Sorry to hear that your therapy was moved back a little, like you said though, there was no point going in ill, no point at all, you'll benefit more going on Friday when hopefully you're feeling much better.

  2. Thanks for letting me know this posted, Mark. Muchly appreciated! I really enjoyed reading this essay. I find topics like this fascinating. Anything that has to do with the way our mind works interests me. You did a great job on it too. I never heard of schemas before I read this.

  3. Associative learning is very potent and using these things to retain and then recall memories is a good thing to know and to utilize. It's a real pleasure watching you learn and see your excitement about this subject.

  4. I think you don't give yourself enough credit. I say well done Mark!

  5. Fancy *strokes beard very thoughtfully*

  6. very interesting I may have to try that Spanish thing as I am rubbish at remembering Spanish words! :P x

  7. ...and I could understand it as well!

  8. I can usually remember things that logically make sense to me. Often my "teachers" in life were not people who had much common sense, so it made learning anything from them very difficult. Another thing I noticed, and I hope works, is that if you just try to memorize things that you really are interested (like lyrics to a song you love or something like that), your memory will get better just from the practice. Well, that was an idea I had, don't know if I invented it or not, but perhaps it is just crazy enough to do some good.


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