Misremembering Bartlett: A study in serial reproduction


Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, King Henry Building, King Henry I Street, Portsmouth PO1 2DY, UK.


According to much of the recent psychological literature on memory, Bartlett should be credited with the insight that remembering can never be accurate but is, instead, more or less of a distortion (a view to which many modern authors themselves seem to subscribe). In the present paper, we argue that Bartlett did not himself provide such an unqualified account of remembering. Although he sought to challenge the idea that remembering is largely an accurate record of past events, he did not maintain that it is always inaccurate. Despite unqualified claims by Bartlett to the contrary, neither his own experiments nor his theoretical position warrant the conclusion that remembering is inherently unreliable. Indeed, as we explain, Bartlett himself provides several examples of impressively detailed and accurate recall, and sought to explain them within the framework of his schema theory.