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The text below was submitted to the 2008 ISCAR Conference and once was uploaded on the moodle page of the conference. Because the moodle page seems to be closed, the text is transferred here. 

Our particularities as individuals in socio-cultural remembering *1


We have to construct our experience in proper ways that societies, cultures, and institutions validate (Gergen, 1994). Socio-culturally invalid remembering would not be considered as proper remembering. We have gradually learnt properly remembering in our culture from our childhood through the communication with culturally adept adults (Edwards & Middleton, 1988; Ohmori, 1992; Rogoff & Mistry, 1985). A Japanese philosopher Shozo Ohmori(1992) called this selective process, in which socio-culturally valid remembering survives and invalid one perishes, ‘the natural selection of remembering.’

    As the society and the culture validate remembering, does the existence or the absence of an experience referred in remembering also influence the validity of remembering? How can we find ourselves as beings holding our own historicity that cannot be shared with any other people? Or is the veracity of an experience reduced to socio-culturally valid narrative forms that Edwards & Potter (1992) specified? *2



In judicial settings (e.g., interrogation room, court), the veracity of an experience (of commitment to a crime, or of an eyewitness) is intensively examined. Because confession and testimony can be thought of as one of remembering, they have to be narratives on the past which are valid in the culture. In addition, further institutional constraints restrict the ways in which they are constructed. In Japan, suspects and witnesses are basically asked according to six items, that is, ‘Who (agents of a crime)’, ’When’, ’Where’, ’to What or to Whom (objects of a crime)’, ‘What to be done (contents of a crime), and ‘How.’ Additionally, ‘Why’ and ‘with whom’ are included, depending on the situation. Some features of remembering like ‘consistency’, ‘concreteness’, and ‘vividness’ are often considered as signs of proper remembering.

                Because some of such remembering can be still a false confession or testimony even though these features are cleared, they may not originating from real commitment to a crime or real eyewitness. Is it possible to discriminate between remembering of real experiences and fake ones? Can we secure the veracity of an experience?



The veracity of an experience has been secured through the comparison between contents of original events and those of remembering. The traditional memory researches since Ebbinghaus rely on this methodology. But this methodology implies an assumption not satisfied in everyday situations. The ‘privilege’ (Mori, 1995, 2008)(an experimenter in the laboratory research) who can compare rememberers’ performance and contents of their experiences does not exist in the everyday situation. Therefore, we have to give up to judge whether remembering at present is rooted in rememberer’s experience by analyzing its contents.



The author and his colleagues have examined the credibility of confession and testimony during this decade. The Ashikaga Case is one of the cases we involved in. In this case, the credibility of the defendant’s confession of his commitment to murder was questioned. Because the defendant incidentally had several chances to talk about his real experiences, *2 we compared those narratives with that of his commitment to murder. As a result, we found interesting differences between the two narratives. They qualitatively differed in terms of‘agent-alteration/agent-succession.’

When the defendant talked about his real experiences, he often referred to agents (himself and others) of actions alternatively, like 'I did ..., then he did ... So I did ...' This tendency decreased in his narrative during his commitment. Instead, his narrative took on the form of ‘agent succession’ where he refers to his actions successively, e.g. 'I did ... there, and then I did ... ' (See the extracts below)



Well, the policeman said, "Are you Mr. S?" and I responded, "Yes, I am." Then he said, "Can we come in and see your room?" So I let them come in, and he said "Will you show us the inside of the closet?" then I opened the closet. And a small box appeared. The policeman said, "Can I see it?" and I took it to him, then he said, "What is this inside of this box?" and I said......

                               (His remembering of the domiciliary search)


I changed my mind, so when I went to the park by bicycle, I walked to the dry riverbed on the way.

I parked my bike maybe by the dry riverbed and then descended from there.

                               (His confession of the murder of a 4-year-old girl)


Because he easily admitted his guilt when the prosecutors asked about his commitment to the murder, it is difficult to think that his switch of the narrative styles should be attributed to his attempt to escape from being guilty. Instead, these phenomena should come from the different quality of his experiences. It is also noted that this switch of narrative styles are not socio-culturally relevant. Each type of his narratives can be considered socio-culturally valid.



After the Ashikaga case, we had the prospect that we could find the veracity of an experience through the analysis of forms of, not contents of,  remembering. Mori(2008) examined this hypothesis by controlling the qualities of participants’experiences. The present paper delineates this experiment.

[Method] The general procedure of the experiment is depicted  on Figure 1. Four undergraduate students of University C who had never visited either University A or B were recruited as participants in a class on Cognitive Psychology. They individually took part in a navigation task. They were required to find out 7 targets in either University A or University B. Participant Y and T were assigned to University A, and K and O were to University B. About a month later after the navigation task, they were unexpectedly asked to come to University C and to talk about their experiences of the navigation each other. They were instructed to exchange information about the universities they went to because an 'interrogator' would ask questions about the both universities in the next Interrogation phase. They were requested to pretend they had navigated the both universities in the following ‘Interrogation’ phase. Y and O, K 

                 Participant Y, T         Participant O, K


  Stage 1

  Navigation        Navigation of University A     Navigation of University B



  Stage 2

 (about after

  1 month later)         Y and O, T and K had a meeting at the University C

  Exchange               to exchange their navigation experience each other

  Stage 3

 (about after

   2 wks. later)

  Remembering      The participants were required to remember their navigation experience


   1st. Session           and their indirect experience to an ‘interrogator’ P or Q


   3rd. Session

  About every 2 wks.




             Figure 1                        General procedure of the experiment

and T were paired to exchange their own information. About two weeks later after the former phase, Y and O were 'interrogated' individually.

'Interrogators' were two graduate students of C University majoring in psychology. They were told that the participants had the navigation experience at the two universities and were instructed to ask the participants about what happened during the two navigation experiments. Because double blind method was applied for the interrogators, they did not know the participants had two different experiences; one was their direct experience contacted to the environment and the other was indirect experience heard from another participant. The 'interrogation' occurred in every two weeks and three times in total.

[Results and Discussions]

As a result of the analysis of the communication between Y and an 'interrogator' P, several differences between the two different rememberings were found. The general features of these differences were compared in Table 1.

The first difference appeared in narrative styles during Y’s recalling about events in each university. Her utterances about events during the navigation were classified into four categories, her movement, her recognition, her cognition, and objects she encountered. In addition, two successive utterances were labeled as 'alteration' when an utterance was followed by the different kind of an utterance, or as 'succession' when an utterance was followed by the same kind of an utterance. In Remembering of University A, the 'alteration' constantly dominated through all sessions (seven parts to three). In contrast, the 'succession' dominated in the early stage of Remembering of University B (six parts to four), though this tendency quickly disappeared and its 'alteration/succession' proportion became close to that of Remembering of University A.

                The second difference was found in her description of objects. When Y mentioned objects seen during the navigation at University A, she variously described them in regard to their appearance and sometimes unstably named the objects. On the other hand, she described the appearances of objects in University B poorly and named them stably (See the extracts below). Although this contrast was clear until the second session of remembering, it became less clear in the third session.


 [varied description of an object in University A Remembering]

1  P   So, was this, this stairs (pointing what Y drew on a piece of paper) a pretty large ?

2  Y   Yes, it was.

3  P   What looked like ? What do you mean by 'curved' ? Do you remember that you drew like this ?  

4  Y   What looked like... well, hmm..., well, what looked like..., it looked gray.


 [unstable naming of an identical object in University A Remembering]

1  P   Do you remember where you went to?

2  Y   Well, I don't remember well.

3  P   OK.

4  Y   Something, uh, no, uhh(laugh), I remember something-room  (laugh) like that.

5  P   OK.

6  Y   Like a room number, and well, and .... uhh, I don't remember so much.

7  P   It is OK, as far as you remember

8      (silence)

9  Y   Here, uhh, I went to one classroom(laugh) around here

10P   OK.

11Y   Well, perhaps, around here, well, uhh, what can I call it, uhh, things related to information.

12P   Yes

13Y   A room related to information was there, I guess, uhh, I was striving to find the targets, so… (laugh)


                The third difference was shown when she mentioned a motive for her behaviors. During Remembering of University A, incidental encounters with the objects in the environment often induced her behaviors. Her discovery of the targets was described as an incident, such as "I went, then I encountered it." During Remembering of University B, however,  internal motives or knowledge often triggered her actions (See the extracts below). This contrast was quite salient in the first session. Although the difference was getting less clear over the sessions, it was still found in the third session.


 [environmentally-induced motive for actions in University A Remembering]

1  P   You went there by stairs or an elevator.

2  Y   By stairs.

3  P   Do you remember why you chose the stairs ? 

4  Y   Ah, because the stairs, the stairs were there (laugh). I used the stairs.

5  P   Well, I asked you because you said there was an elevator.        

6  Y   Oh, an elevator, maybe I thought I didn't need to use the elevator, so I used the stairs, I guess.


 [internally-induced motive for actions in University B Remembering]

‘I guess there would be a map at an elevator, so I went there'

‘I thought I had to go upstairs or down stairs, so I went'

‘I thought it would be at the entrance, so I went.'



                The last difference appeared in her difficulty of drawing only in the first session. When the 'interrogator' asked Y to draw at the beginning of Remembering of University A, she froze with holding a pen and was silent for about one minute. Y did not show such difficulty during Remembering of University B. *4

     As we found in the Ashikaga case, it was found that the qualities of experiences reflect on forms of remembering. Moreover, the microgenesis of the participant’s remembering also shows us the qualities of experiences, though they were gradually disappearing with the repetition of remembering.

        Table 1.  General features of the two rememberings


                                            Remembering of

            University A (direct experience)                University B (indirect experience)


                Alteration-dominant       vs.    succession-dominant narrative

                Multiple descriptions of           Poor descriptions of

          an object’s appearance     vs.       an object’s appearance


                Unstable naming of an object    vs.     Stable naming of an object

                       Environment-induced motives       vs.             Internally induced motives

                            Difficulties to draw a map          vs.           Difficulties not to draw a map


It can be said that the qualities and the existence/absence of experiences reflect on forms and the microgenetic organization of remembering, based on these practical and empirical evidences. Because they are not socio-culturally relevant phenomena, the veracity of an experience can be explored independently of the socio-cultural nature of remembering.

                It is highly possible that ways of the actualization of an experience in remembering varies among remembers. In the fact, the styles of the defendant’s remembering of his real experiences are different from that of the participant Y’s real experience. Another participant K’s remembering of her real experience may be different from that of these people.

                Particularities of an individual with a single and unique trajectory of experiences reflect on forms and the microgenetic organization of remembering. This has already been suggested by Frederic Bartlett before more than 70 years.


It is, accordingly, apt to take on a peculiarity of some kind which, in any given case, express the temperment, or the character, of the person who effects the recall. This may be why, in almost all psychological descriptions of memory processes, memory is said to have a characteristically personal flavour. If this view is correct, however, memory is personal, not because of some intangible and hypothetical persisting 'self', which receives and maintains innumerable traces, re-stimulating them whenever it needs; but because the mechanism of adult human memory demands an organisation of 'schemata' depending upon an interplay of appetites, instincts, interests and ideas peculiar to any given subject. Thus if, as in some pathological cases, these active sources of the 'schemata' get cut off from one another, the peculiar personal attributes of what is remembered fail to appear.

(Bartlett, 1932, p.213)




Bartlett, F. C. (1932). Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Edwards, D. & Middleton, D. (1988).  Conversational remembering and family relationships: How children learn to remember.  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 5, 3-25.


Edwards, D., & Potter, J. (1992). Discursive Psychology. London: Sage.


Gergen, K. J. (1994). Mind, text, and society: Self-memory in social context. In U. Neisser, & R. Fivush (Eds.), The remembering self: Construction and accuracy in the self-narrative (pp.78-104). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Mori, N. (2008). Styles of remembering and types of experience: An experimental investigation of reconstructive memory. Integrative  Psychology and Behavioral Science.  DOI 10.1007/s12124-008-9068-5


Mori, N. (forthcoming a). The schema approach: A dynamical approach to remembering. In J. Valsiner, P. C. M. Molenaar, M. C. D. P. Lyra, & N. Chaudhary (Eds.) Dynamic process methodology in the social and developmental sciences. Springer.


Ohmori, S. (1992).  Self and time [Jiga to Jikan]  Tokyo: Seido-sya. (in Japanese)


Rogoff, B. & Mistry, J. (1985).  Memory development in cultural context.  In M. Pressley & C. J. Brainerd (Eds.)  Cognitive learning and memory in children: Progress in cognitive development research.  New York: Springer, pp. 117-142.



*1  Topics in this presentation are also discussed in the following three articles;

Mori(2008) and Mori(forthcoming a) See references

Mori, N. (forthcoming b). Remembering with others:The veracity of an experience in the symbol formation process. In B. Wagonar (Ed.) Symbolic transformations: The mind in movement through culture and society. Routledge.


*2  Edwards & Potter(1992) specified the following formulae used in the construction of facts: category entitlement, vivid description, narrative, empirical accounting, consensus and corroboration, lists and contrasts


*3  By ‘real experiences’,  we mean events whose existence could be confirmed by other people. 'Domiciliary investigation', 'chat with colleagues' , and ‘participation to his nephew’s sport festival’ were referred in the defendant’s confession.


*4  Although these data were included in the early draft, they were deleted from the published article. 

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