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Year 12 IB Psychology CLOA 2010
Social and cultural factors which affect cognitive
In this unit, we have been focusing on the cognitive
process of memory and for this learning outcome we
must ‘discuss how’ social or cultural factors affect
this cognitive process.
You must explain HOW the factors impact on
memory; what actually happens which alters the
memory process; this is different from just saying
what the effect on memory actually is.
One way to discuss (as opposed to describe) is to assess the evidence (research studies) in terms of
strengths and weaknesses and make comparisons between pieces of evidence; you might also say
how these information can be applied in everyday life or make links with others relevant factors that
you have learnt about which also affect memory, (e.g. biological factors).
Work as a class to create a wall display about factors which affect memory; you should
a summary of the article/study that you researched which explains how this sociocultural factors affect memory
an evaluation of the research which focuses on methodological strengths and
weaknesses , gender/cultural bias, ethical issues, etc.
You will present your research orally to the group for discussion and finally for display.
In the Western world, a ‘good’ memory is highly prized, particularly by those revising for end of year
exams. Better memory, means better grades, means better opportunities for further study and
enhanced employment prospects. While many will argue that more progressive assessment
methods assess more than rote recall and require the manipulation and application of ideas, these
skills still depend, essentially, on the ability to retrieve information from long term memory and
consciously ‘work with it’ , which requires the ability to maintain ideas within the short term
memory. The ability to understand instructions, to learn from what we read and hear, all depends
upon the capacity and duration of our working short term memory, while our ability to make novel
suggestions and to evaluate ideas depends upon our ability to access stored information when given
sometimes only subtle cues. This requires a well organised and inter-connected memory network or
‘web’. And so, in a culture where individual social advancement depends upon our ability to pass
exams and the success of each educational establishment hinges on its ability to get pupils through
exams, it is no surprise that teaching strategies often focus on techniques which facilitate recall.
Year 12 IB Psychology CLOA 2010
Does this mean then that in cultures where formal schooling is less accessible or absent altogether,
cognitive processes linked with memory including the selection and organisation of material for later
retrieval is somehow impaired? Or have we somehow missed the point, that in fact when we talk
abut ‘a good memory’ we are talking only abut one type of memory; declarative or semantic
memory for factual information. That in fact we have not learned anything about the way in which
out culture affects other aspects of our memories, e.g. autobiographical or episodic memory. Could
it be that non-literate societies who do not have the facility of keeping written records and in fact
pass information on from one generation to the next using the oral tradition’ may in fact have
enhanced abilities? Also is it possible that tests designed to assess memory in one culture may in fact
be invalid when trying to assess ability in another very different culture, invalid in that they do not
even assess all aspects of memory in the culture for which they were originally designed.