There are two main studies that looked into reconstructive memory. Firstly Bartlett conducted a study in 1932. He said that we change our memories to fit in with what we already know, even though we believe that we are remembering exactly what happened. He gave participants an extract from an old American Folk story ‘War Of The Ghosts’. He wanted to see if people, when given something unfamiliar to read, would alter any of the information when retelling the story from memory. Participants were asked to read the extract and were later asked to recall the story accurately as they could, this was repeated several times during the following weeks. The results showed that participants found it difficult to remember parts of the story concerning spirits and therefore changed parts of the story to make it easier for them to understand. As the weeks went by the participants recall of the story changed bit by bit. Bartlett concluded that our memory is influenced by our own beliefs and understanding.
The second study was conducted by Wynn and Logie in 1998. They wanted to see if the recall of familiar stories would change in the same way that Bartlett found happened with unfamiliar stories. For this study they asked university students to recall details of their first week at university. They were asked to do this several times throughout the year. The results showed that the accuracy of the students descriptions remained the same no matter how many times they were asked (unlike Bartlett’s study). Wynn and Logie concluded that recall of familiar information will not change over time.
Reconstructive memory is when we change parts of a story to fit our understanding. The more times we recall the story the more things are likely to change. However this is more likely to happen when trying to recall unfamiliar information (secondhand information)