chapter  7
25 Pages

Bartlett’s trilogy of memory: Reconstructing the concept of attitude

BySTEEN F. LARSEN, DORTHE BERNTSEN

INTRODUCTION In the richly detailed account of human memory developed in Bartlett’s Remembering (1932), three concepts played the key roles: schemata, images and attitudes. Later researchers have focused almost exclusively on the schema concept that became the centrepiece of constructivist theories of perception, memory and knowledge representation when Bartlett’s work was rediscovered in the 1970s (see Brewer & Nakamura, 1984). Compared to the spectacular career of the schema, the concepts of attitude and image as used by Bartlett have led a quiet life and generated no succeeding research to speak of. This is hardly because these concepts were any less precisely described than the schema. It has been a common complaint that Bartlett’s memory theory was generally too vague, even to the extent that his students Broadbent (1970) and Zangwill (1972b) concluded, shortly after Bartlett had died, that this was the reason the entire theory had failed. The schema was soon revived, but not image and attitude. It is a likely reason for their continued neglect that these concepts are too mentalistic, too closely associated with conscious introspection-that is, with the phenomenal aspects of remembering-to be seen as relevant or even comprehensible in the behaviourist and information-processing eras. Bartlett’s notion of memory images most obviously bears evidence of his original interest in introspectionist psychology (see Zangwill, 1972b) and his continuing conviction that introspective observations should not be ignored (Bartlett, 1936; see also Brewer, 1986; Larsen, 1998). The notion of attitude is also concerned with conscious experience. Image and attitude may in fact be seen as descendants of the two opposing sides in the

introspectionist debate early in this century between the Leipzig school and the Würzburg school on the content and function of consciousness (Boring, 1950), as we discuss later.