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Can Bartlett’s repeated reproduction experiments be replicated?

Abstract

Surprisingly, Bartlett’s (1932) famous repeated reproduction experiments, in which he found systematically increasing errors in recall from the same people tested over time, have never been successfully replicated. Several studies have attempted partial replications, which were unsuccessful, and their authors concluded that the original observations might not be replicable. We conducted a study modeled closely after Bartlett’s procedures: Subjects studied “The War of the Ghosts,” took an initial test 15 min later, and then took a delayed test after 1 week. A follow-up test was conducted 6 months later on as many subjects as could be obtained. We did replicate Bartlett’s results, in that (1) subjects forgot the story over delays but (2) introduced rationalization and distortion into their accounts of the story, with increases in the proportion of material distorted as retention interval increased. Subjects also imported new propositions at long delays, further confirming Bartlett’s empirical observations and conclusions. Bartlett’s repeated reproduction results can be replicated.

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Correspondence to Henry L. Roediger.

Additional information

This research was supported by NIH Grant MH1156-02 to the first author.

These data were first reported at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Philadelphia, November 1997.

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Bergman, E.T., Roediger, H.L. Can Bartlett’s repeated reproduction experiments be replicated?. Mem Cogn 27, 937–947 (1999). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03201224

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Keywords

  • Test Session
  • Retention Interval
  • False Memory
  • Prose
  • Distortion Type