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Does Clock-watching Make You Clockwise`
Anne Richards
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Does Clock-watching Make You Clockwise?
Anne Richards
Birkbeck College, University of London, UK
Christopher C. French
Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK
Peter Harris
University of Hertfordshire, UK
French and Richards (1993) found that subjects asked to draw from memory a
clock that had Roman numerals on its face typically represented the number four
on the clock face as ``IV rather than the correct ``IIII, whereas those merely
asked to copy it typically drew ``IIII. The current experiments followed the
methodology of French and Richards, but then went on to examine the subsequent
memorial representation of the number four. Subjects drew a clock with Roman
numerals on its face, either from memory (with or without forewarning) or while
the clock remained in full view. Subsequently, subjects were asked to recall the
exact form in which the numbers were represented on the clock (Experiment 1) or
were asked to recognise which of two clocks had been presented earlier
(Experiment 2). Findings supported the idea that subjects in the copy condition
were more likely than subjects in other conditions to draw the clock without
invoking schematic knowledge of Roman numerals. The basic effect reported by
French and Richards was replicated in both experiments. Furthermore, in both
experiments, subjects who correctly drew the clock with the number four
represented as ``IIII were more likely to misrepresent it as ``IV in the
subsequent memory task if they were in the copy condition rather than the two
memory conditions. The results are interpreted in terms of schema theory.
I N T R O D U C T I O N
Clocks with Roman numerals typically represent the number four as ``IIII,
rather than the more usual Roman ``IV. However, despite frequent exposure to
such clocks, French and Richards (1993) found that subjects who were asked to
draw such a clock from memory typically represented the four on the clock as
MEMORY, 1996, 4 (1), 4958
Requests for reprints should be sent to Anne Richards, Department of Psychology, Birkbeck
College, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX, UK.
Thanks are due to Colin Latham and Sally Beales for assistance with data collection and to Ernest
Samuel for producing the images used in Experiment 2.
# 1996 Erlbaum (UK) Taylor & Francis
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``IV rather than the correct ``IIII. Warning subjects that they would be
required to draw the clock from memory made no difference to the findings.
Subjects who were asked to copy the clock while it remained in full view did not
make this mistake.
Schema theory was invoked by French and Richards (1993) to account for the
findings, as this appeared to offer the most parsimonious explanation. Schemas
are cognitive structures representing organised knowledge about concepts,
events, situations, etc. Schemas are based on conceptually driven processes (as
opposed to data-driven processes) which allow sense to be made from
impoverished or ambiguous information. Schemas are used to assist in
interpreting the world efficient ly by guiding our attention, and encoding and
retrieving information. It is almost certainly the case that schemas are only
invoked when needed. The representation of the number four on a clock face is
not directly relevant for telling the time. The location of the figure is much more
relevant. French and Richards argued that subjects in the two memory
conditions examined a couple of the numbers of the clock face in order to
note the general style and form of the numbers, but then went on to rely on their
schematic knowledge to fill in the details during the drawing of the clock. As the
actual numbers on a clock face are less important than their location, when we
come to try and remember how a Roman numeral clock face looks, we will
invoke our general schema for Roman numerals. The representation of the
figures in the Roman numeral counting schema is obviously very important, and
the four will be represented as ``IV within this schema.
It was also suggested that the subjects in the copy condition used a
cognitively economical strategy to draw the clock which did not involve subjects
using their schematic knowledge. Subjects in this condition could simply glance
at the clock while drawing it.
If it is the case that subjects in the copy condition drew the clock without
invoki ng their schematic knowledge for Roman numerals, then a subsequent
recall task should show that when required to use schematic information, they
shoul d recall the four incorrectly, i.e. as ``IV. On the other hand, if those few
subjects in the two memory conditions who actually represented the four
correctly had consciously noticed that it was represented as ``IIII on the clock
face, they should be more likely to recall the number four correctly, i.e. as
``IIII. In Langers (1978, 1989) terms, subjects in the copy condition could
copy the clock ``mindlessly, failing to notice the apparent anomaly. The
present experiment examined this possibility by requiring subjects to draw the
clock in the first phase of the experiment, and then to recall the number on the
clock face by writing down how the numbers actually appeared on the clock
face.
In summary, the present experiment is testing two hypotheses. First, it is
predicted, in line with French and Richards (1993) study, that subjects in the
copy condition will be more likely to represent the four correctly (as ``IIII) on
5 0 R I C H A R D S , F R E N C H , H A R R I S
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a drawing compared to the two memory groups (forewarned and surprise
memory conditions). Second, it is predicted that of those subjects who correctly
represent the four as ``IIII on the drawing task, the ones from the copy
condition will be more likely to fail a subsequent recall task compared to those
from the memory groups.
E X P E R I M E N T 1
M e t h o d
Subjects. A total of 93 subjects participated in the experiment, but five
were excluded because they failed to fulfil the criteria to be outlined shortly. The
final group comprised 88 subjects (20 males) who were all first year
undergraduates at the University of Hertfordshire studying psychology, either
as a single honour s degree or as part of a combined studies programme. The
mean age of the group was 20.88 years (SD = 5.15).
Apparatus. The clock used in this study was the same as that used by
French and Richards (1993). It was a standard clock made by Samuel Bishop of
London. The clock had clear Roman numerals on the face with the four
represented as ``IIII. The clock was set at ten past seven.
Procedure. Subjects were run in groups of approximately 10 or 11 per
session in order to ensure that all subjects could see the clock. The procedure
followed French and Richards (1993) with subjects being randomly allocated to
one of three conditions as follows:
(i) Surprise memory condition. Subjects were told, ``I am going to show you a
clock which I want you to examine visually for one minute. The clock was
then removed from view and subjects were issued with pencils, erasers, and
paper (this took exactly two minutes). Subjects were asked to draw the clock as
accurately as possible from memory and informed that they would be allowed
six minutes to do so. Subjects were warned after five minutes that only one
minute remained.
(ii) Forewarned memory condition. Subjects were told, ``I am going to show you
a clock which I want you to examine visually for one minute. Then I will ask
you to draw it from memory. The clock itself will be removed. You will be
allowed six minutes. Following the one-minute examination period, the clock
was removed from view and subjects were issued with pencils, erasers, and
paper (this took exactly two minutes). Subjects were allowed six minutes to
draw the clock, and were given a warning after five minutes that only one
minute remained.
(iii) Copy condition. Subjects were issued with pencils, paper, and erasers in
advance, and the clock remained in full view for the six-minute copying period.
These subjects were told, ``I would like you to draw a picture of this clock. You
C L O C K - W A T C H I N G 5 1
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have six minutes. Subjects were given six minutes for this task, and warned
after five minutes had elapsed.
At the end of the drawing period subjects in all groups received the following
instructions:
Please now write on the rear of your sheet {subject group and day}, and your age
and gender. Once you have done this, will you please write down how the numbers
for the hours were represented on the clock face? That is, will you please write
down the numbers themselvesi.e. from 1 to 12in the exact form that they were
written on the clock face?
{In each case, the last two sentences were repeated for emphasis. Further, stress
was placed on the emphasised words.}
The experimenter ensured that no subject turned over the paper to check on
how they had drawn the clock earlier.
R e s u l t s
Subjects were excluded from the analysis if (a) the clock was drawn with the
four not represented as ``IIII or ``IV, or (b) subjects did not recall the four as
either ``IIII or ``IV. The data from the 88 subjects who produced useable data
are presented in Table 1 (the same results were obtained if the full data set was
analysed). There was a significant association between condition and the way in
which the four was represented in the drawings (w
2
= 47.05, df = 2, P <0.001),
thus strongly supporting the first hypothesis.
All of the subjects in the surprise memory condition and the forewarned
memory condition who correctly represented the four as ``IIII in their drawings
also got it correct on the rear of their sheets. However, of the 28 subjects in the
copy condition who correctly represented the four as ``IIII in their drawings,
16 got it wrong on the back of their sheets (i.e. put ``IV rather than ``IIII).
This association was significant (Fishers Exact Test, P <0.01; see Table 2),
supporting the second hypothesis.
T A B L E 1
E x p e r i m e n t 1 : D r a w i n g T a s k
SMT FMT CT
IV 25 22 2
IIII 2 9 28
Subjects representing four as ``IV and ``IIII under the three conditions of
Experiment 1: surprise memory task (SMT), forewarned memory task (FMT),
and copy task (CT).
5 2 R I C H A R D S , F R E N C H , H A R R I S
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D i s c u s s i o n
The present experiment has clearly replicated that of French and Richards
(1993). Indeed, the results here are even stronger, with a much lower proportion
of those in the two memory conditions representing the four as ``IIII (around a
third of those in the memory groups in French and Richards study had done so).
In addition to this, it appears that some of the subjects in the copy condition were
performing the task ``mindlessly as over half of these subjects (16 out of 28)
recalled the number four as ``IV despite having correctly drawn ``IIII in the
earlier phase of the experiment. All of the subjects in the memory conditions
who drew the number four correctly in the first phase of the experiment
subsequently recalled the number correctly.
A parsimonious explanation for the performance of those subjects in the copy
condition who were right-then-wrong (drew the four correctly but recalled it
incorrectly) is in terms of schema theory. These subjects would have copied the
clock ``mindlessly, without invoking any schema. However, when they came
to try and recall the nature of the numbers on the clock, they would have had to
rely on their schematic knowledge of Roman numerals, and consequently
misrepresented the number four. Subjects who drew the clock correctly and
recalled it correctly may have noticed the anomalous number four during the
drawing of the clock, and then gone on to recall the four correctly.
An alternative explanation for the performance of the right-then-wrong
subjects in the copy condition is that they did notice that the number four was
represented as ``IIII, copied it down correctly, but then forgot it by the time the
recall task was performed. It was therefore decided to run a second experiment
using a more sensitive measure of memory, that of recognition. The recognition
paradigm is a more implicit test of memory than is the recall paradigm, and
might be a more sensitive measure of what memory representations persist for
the surface forms of the numerals.
It is possible that some of the subjects who drew and recalled the clock
correctly were already aware that clocks with Roman numerals on their face
typically have the four represented as ``IIII. For these subjects, there would
T A B L E 2
E x p e r i m e n t 1 : S u b s e q u e n t R e c a l l T a s k
SMT/FMT CT
IV 0 16
IIII 11 12
Subsequent recall by subjects who correctly represented the
four as ``IIII under the conditions of Experiment 1: surprise
memory task and forewarned memory task combined (SMT/
FMT) and copy task (CT).
C L O C K - W A T C H I N G 5 3
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have been no incongrui ty with their schemas. This is unlikely to provide a
complete explanation for the results found, as subjects were randomly allocated
to each of the three groups, and it is unlikely that such subjects were
disproportionately allocated to the two memory conditions. However, the second
study took this into account by asking subjects to state how the number four is
usually represented on a Roman numeral clock face.
For Experiment 2, subjects were again allocated to the three drawing
conditions but were then presented with a recognition test. The recognition task
involved subjects having to decide which of two computer-generated pictures of
the clock (one with the four correctly represented as ``IIII and one with the
four modified to ``IV, see Fig. 1) had been presented.
As this was a forced-choice paradigm, a confidence rating scale was
incorporated so that subjects who were guessing could be eliminated. In addition
to this, at the end of the experiment, subjects were asked to write down how the
number four was usually represented on clocks that have Roman numerals on
their face.
E X P E R I M E N T 2
M e t h o d
Subjects. A total of 418 subjects participated in the study, but 171 were
excluded for the reasons to be outlined shortly. The final group comprised 247
subjects (58 males) who were all first year students from the Psychology
Departments of Birkbeck College and Goldsmiths College. The mean age of the
group was 28.11 years (SD = 9.31).
Procedure. The experiment consisted of three stages. The first stage
involved subjects being allocated to one of three conditions (copy, forewarned
memory, and surprise memory) in the same way as for Experiment 1. Subjects
were required to reproduce a drawing of the clock. All drawings were collected
before the next phase commenced.
In Phase II subjects were presented with two pictures of the clock. The
pictures were presented face down and subjects were only allowed to look at
them two minutes after the end of the drawing task. These two pictures were
identical apart from the representation of the number four (see Fig. 1). On one
clock the four was represented correctly as ``IIII, and on the other the four was
represented incorrectly as ``IV. Half of the subjects received pairs of pictures
in which the correct choice was on the left, and half received pairs of pictures in
which the correct choice was on the right. Subjects were instructed as follows:
Please look carefully at the two pictures on the sheet, one is marked A and the
other is marked B. Please decide which one of these clocks is more similar to the
clock you saw earlier, and write your answer (A or B) in the space provided.
5 4 R I C H A R D S , F R E N C H , H A R R I S
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F I G . 1 . Pictures of clocks used in the recognition phase of Experiment 2. One clock has the four
represented as ``IIII and the other has the four represented as ``IV.
5 5
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Please then indicate how confident you are about your decision. If you are
extremely confident, then circle the 7, if you are unsure about your response, then
circle the 1.
The rating scale presented at the bottom of the response sheet ranged from 1
(not at all confident) to 7 (extremely confident). All response sheets were
collected in before the final phase began.
Finally, subjects were asked, ``How is the number four usually represented on
a clock which has Roman numerals on its face?.
R e s u l t s
Subjects were excluded from the analyses if they omitted any of the three stages
outlined. In addition to this, subjects were excluded if they failed to draw either
``IIII or ``IV during Stage 1 (some subjects drew ``VI and were thus
excluded). Subjects were excluded if they had a confidence rating below 4
during the recognition stage. This was to exclude subjects who were guessing as
to which clock had been presented earlier. Finally, subjects whose performance
indicated that they were aware that clocks with Roman numerals usually had the
four represented as ``IIII were also excluded. The final data set consisted of
247 subjects. The analyses of the full data set (418 subjects) produced the same
effects as for the subgroup.
Table 3 contains the numbers of subjects representing the four as ``IV and
``IIII for each of the three conditions. There was a significant association
between condition and the representation of the number four on the clock face
(w
2
= 112.94, df = 2, P <0.001). Further analysis showed that there was no
association between the representation of the four and the two memory
conditions (w
2
= 0.38, df = 1, ns). However, when the two memory conditions
were jointly compared with the copy condition, there was a significant
association with the representation of the four (w
2
= 112.66, df = 1, P <0.001).
These findings are entirely consistent with those of Experiment 1, and French
and Richards (1993).
T A B L E 3
E x p e r i m e n t 2 : D r a w i n g T a s k
SMT FMT CT
IV 55 59 6
IIII 20 17 90
Subjects representing four as ``IV and ``IIII under the three conditions of
Experiment 2: surprise memory task (SMT), forewarned memory task (FMT),
and copy task (CT).
5 6 R I C H A R D S , F R E N C H , H A R R I S
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An analysis was performed on the recognition data of those subjects who
correctly represented the number four in Stage 1 (see Table 4). This analysis
revealed that there was a significant association between condition and whether
the correct or incorrect clock was recognised (w
2
= 6.17, df = 2, P <0.05). Again,
further analyses showed that there was no association between the two memory
conditions and the recognition of the clock (Fishers exact test, ns), but if the
two memory conditions are collapsed and compared with the copy condition
there was a significant association (w
2
= 4.90, df = 1, P <0.05).
D i s c u s s i o n
Experiment 2 has replicated the basic effect described by French and Richards
(1993) and Experiment 1 here, that when subjects drew the clock from memory,
the majority mistakenly drew ``IV rather than the correct ``IIII, whereas
subjects who merely copied the clock tended not to make this mistake.
Analysis of the subsequent recognition performance of those subjects who
drew the number four correctly in the first phase of the experiment showed that
there was a significant association with condition. Of those subjects in the copy
condition drawing the clock correctly, 26% subsequently recognised it
incorrectly, as compared to 8% in the memory conditions. This finding supports
the idea that several subjects in the copy condi tion drew the clock
``mindlessly.
In addition to this, the possibility that subjects in the memory conditions
were drawing and recognising the number four correctly because they already
knew how fours are represented on clocks with Roman numerals was ruled
out, as such subjects in the present experiment were excluded. It appears that
those subjects who recognised the clock correctly must have noticed the
incongruous number four during the first stage of the experiment. Whether
subjects would update their schema for Roman numerals on clock faces as a
result of this experience is unknown, although it is likely that such subjects
would check future clocks for their representation of the four as a result of
their experience.
T A B L E 4
E x p e r i m e n t 2 : S u b s e q u e n t R e c o g n i t i o n T a s k
SMT FMT CT
IV 3 0 23
IIII 17 17 67
Subsequent recognition by subjects who correctly represented the four as
``IIII under the three conditions of Experiment 2: surprise memory task
(SMT) forewarned memory task (FMT) and copy task (CT).
C L O C K - W A T C H I N G 5 7
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G E N E R A L D I S C U S S I O N
The two experiment s both replicate the finding reported by French and Richards
(1993), showing that subjects drawing the clock from memory are significantly
more likely to draw the four incorrectly than are subjects copying the clock. The
effect of drawing the clock on a later memory task was related to whether
subjects drew the clock from memory or simply copied it. There was a greater
proportion of subjects in the copy condition as compared to the memory
conditions who appeared to have drawn the clock ``mindlessly (i.e. they drew
it correctly, but recalled or recognised it incorrectly). For those subjects who
produced a correct response on the memory task, this appeared to be due to them
noticing the incongruity between their schematic knowledge and the clock,
rather than them already knowing how fours are represented on clocks with
Roman numerals.
Of those subjects correctly drawing the number four in the copy condition,
57% of subjects in Experiment 1 incorrectly recalled the number four, whereas
in Experiment 2 only 26% incorrectly recognised the number four. This could be
due to the increased sensitivity of the recognition paradigm used in Experiment
2. This paradigm is a more ``implicit test of memory, and it could be the case
that subjects had noticed the incongruity in Experiment 1 but then failed to recall
it, whereas this was not the case for Experiment 2. An alternative explanation is
that the recognition paradigm allows a higher degree of guessing by subjects,
with differences in percentages between Experiments 1 and 2 being due to the
extra variability in Experiment 2. This problem was countered to a degree by
excluding subjects who were not confident about their recognition decision.
However, both experiments have supported the hypotheses outlined in the
introduction, and support is thus offered for an explanation of the results in
terms of schema theory.
Manuscript received 28 February 1993
Manuscript accepted 9 September 1994
R E F E R E N C E S
French, C.C., & Richards, A. (1993). Clock this! An everyday example of a schema-driven error in
memory. British Journal of Psychology, 84, 249253.
Langer, E.J. (1978). Re-thinking the role of thought in social interaction. In J.H. Harvey, W.I. Ickes,
& R.F. Kidd (Eds.), New directions in attribution research (Vol. 2, pp. 3558). Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Langer, E.J. (1989). Minding matters. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social
psychology (Vol. 22, pp. 137173). New York: Academic Press.
5 8 R I C H A R D S , F R E N C H , H A R R I S
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