The role of schemata in memory for prose as a function of cognitive and social development



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The purpose of the present study was to investigate how children of different levels of cognitive and role taking development utilized schemata in comprehension and memory of prose. The literature suggests that adults can adopt a particular schemata for comprehending and recalling a passage when instructed to do so. Further, the schemata used determined what of the incoming information was important, and those elements rated as more important were recalled better. When subjects were asked to shift to a second perspective, the results of the second recall test indicated that subjects were able to recall additional, previously unrecalled information following a shift in perspective. Evidence of these abilities among children is limited and conflicting. Seventy-six subjects (29 first graders, 21 second graders, and 26 third graders) participated in this study. Subjects1 levels of cognitive and role taking development were tested using Piagetian measures of conservation, and the Flavell picture role taking task, and the Burns and Cavey role taking measure, respectively. During a second session, subjects were asked to recall a story from a randomly assigned perspective. Half of the subjects were then instructed to shift to a new perspective and recall the story once again, while the remaining subjects were reminded of their original perspective and asked to recall the story a second time. The results of the various analyses included in the present study provide additional support for the utilization of schemata in the comprehension process. That subjects can be induced to invoke a particular schemata for comprehending a passage is evident from the results. Subjects1 recall of text elements important to a particular perspective supported the contention that the schemata that the reader brings to the text determines the importance of text elements and that those elements determined to be more important are recalled better than items of low importance. However, as the present evidence indicates, it is the subjects' levels of cognitive and role taking development which are predictive of these abilities. It would appear that the memory schemata function as subschemata of general cognitive developmental level. When a shift to a second perspective was required, only those subjects with sufficient cognitive and role taking development were able to utilize the additional schemata to facilitate recall. The present study provides a possible explanatory mechanism by which utilization of schemata in comprehension and memory of prose may be predicted and explained.



Learning, Psychology of, Memory