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Schema and deviation effects in adults’ memory for repeated events

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

In this thesis, I present research that investigated schema formation and schemadeviation effects in memory for instances of a repeated event. In five experiments, samples of adult participants repeatedly encountered stimuli that were intended to establish a schema in terms of units of content occurring in a specific temporal order. As the complexity of stimuli across experiments increased, this schema was operationalized as a sequence of word-categories in a list, actions in an unfamiliar story, or activities experienced during a visit. Each aspect of the schema—content and order—was then systematically violated by introducing deviations in the final instance of the repeated event. To examine potential deviation effects on memory for the whole repeated event, participants were asked to recall all instances. The findings indicated that content and order deviation effects are qualitatively different, and that (any) deviation effects likely depend on the level of schema formation and on the degree to which a deviation is noticed. Specifically, a content deviation within an instance of a repeated event for which a schema is developed is likely to be noticed, well remembered, and may result in better recall across all instances. By contrast, due to the implicit nature of the order aspect of a schema, an order deviation may not be noticed but may result in disruption of recall across all instances. In repeated events for which a schema is still developing, any deviations are less likely to be noticed and more likely to have negative effects on recall of the deviation instance. Finally, across all experiments, participants memory of the first instance was better than their memory of any other instances. I discuss implications of this research for theory of adults’ memory for repeated events and deviation effects in this context, and practical implications of the findings in investigative interviewing settings.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award dateJun 2020


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