The Influence of Schemas on Memory: Effects on the Criminal Justice System




Gamboa, Laura Alejandra

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When people go to a restaurant, they have expectations of how their experience will go from the moment they walk in the restaurant to the moment they walk out. This sequence of expected events is called a schema. A schema is defined as a mental framework involved in organizing specific experiences into particular themes (Baron & Branscombe, 2016; Goldstein, 2019). Schemas are very useful for organizing information that we encounter frequently. However, there is debate that schemas can also impair our memory and possibly lead us to remembering something that did not happen. So, what does this mean for our Criminal Justice system, an institution that relies on the memory of eyewitnesses to administer a fair trial? The following paper will discuss and explain the importance of understanding how schemas influence eyewitness memory for information and misinformation. A proposed study will extend a study done by Tuckey and Brewer (2003) by adding a misinformation component. After participants have watched a staged crime video, they will read narratives that include misinformation (schema-consistent, schema-inconsistent, or none) regarding the crime video. Participants will be interviewed using free-recall and cued-recall questions regarding the original video. Finally, the participants will be called back after one week to undergo another interview. The accuracy of participant recall will provide important information the impact of schemas in eyewitness testimony.



schemas, misinformation, eyewitness testimony, memory, criminal justice system, Honors College


Gamboa, L. A. (2020). The influence of schemas on memory: Effects on the criminal justice system (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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