UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of the operative theory of memory King, Mary Ann


The study was concerned with the phenomenon of regressed memories within the context of the operative theory of memory (Piaget and Inhelder, 1973). Four pictures representing operative concepts of varying difficulty were presented to Grade Three children. Memory for these concepts was assessed through reproduction and recognition tasks. In addition, memory for the more arbitrary or figurative aspects of the stimuli was tested. Operative memory findings for three of the pictures coincided with results previously reported by Liben (1975). A different pattern of memory was found for the fourth stimulus representing the most operatively difficult concept. This latter finding appeared to fit predictions from the figurative memory hypothesis proposed by Furth, Ross, and Youniss (1974). Inconsistent relationships were evident between assessment and operative memory performance and the distinction between the figurative and operative aspects of the pictures was supported by the finding of different memory patterns for both types of information. Results were discussed in terms of possible variations in the role of memory (in the strict sense) across the four stimuli, problems with the assessments used to tap children's understanding of the Piagetian concepts, and the difficulty of predicting in advance the operative schemes to which children assimilate memory stimuli such as pictures. Finally, while Piaget and Inhelder's theory of memory can account for the findings of the present study, explanations derived from the theory suffer from a lack of clarity and a vagueness of terminology.

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