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Jimena Aza Guerrero

PhD. Irasema Mora Pablo
The Role of Schematic Knowledge and Working Memory
This paper reports on the results of a research project done on working memory capacity.
Six subjects were asked to listen to a text and then decide whether they heard certain
statements or not. This research focuses mainly on the role of schematic knowledge in
recalling elements of the text. Firstly, I will present the literature review. Secondly, I will
explain the methodology followed to apply the test, to select the text and statements, and to
analyze the data. Thirdly, I will present the results and the discussion of them. Finally, I
will summarize the results in the conclusion.
Literature review
Working memory, also called short term memory, is in charge of storing relevant
information that is being presented in the moment. This memory is also responsible for
processing operations. Long term memory, in contrast, is the one which stores permanent
information (Field, 2003). This project focuses mainly on working memory, because the
task requires the subjects to remember the text only for a moment.
In the working memory it is possible to recall words verbatim for a short period of time.
This is due to the recent activation of lexical entries which occurred during the process of
representing the concept of the sentence (Lombardi & Potter, 1992; Lee & Williams 1997).
This is also due to the primacy effect.
An important aspect in the understanding of a text is the schema theory. This theory is
based on the background knowledge humans have about the world. That previous
knowledge is what helps them to comprehend the texts they read. Such knowledge is
stored in the form of schemas, which are sets of interrelated features which we associate
with an entity or concept (Field, 2003, p. 39). In other words, a schema refers to the ideas
we have around concepts, and those ideas are always connected to each other. Together,
they form our perception and comprehension about the world.
Every time we read or listen to information, our schematic knowledge activates to help us
relate what we are reading to what we already know about that topic and thus understand
and remember it better (Field, 2003; Konopka & Benjamin, 2009).
There are three types of schematic knowledge: world knowledge, knowledge built up from
the text so far, and previous experience of the type of text being heard. The subjects will be
using these types of schematic knowledge in the following ways. The first type will be
helpful to provide a framework for understanding the text and to support recall. The second
type will be used to set up a representation of the text as they listen to it, and to decide what
and what not to remember. The third type will serve them to know how to approach the
text (Field, 2003).
Text selection
I wrote the text I designed. In the text I included some elements that would not match with
the subjects schematic knowledge to see how they reacted to that. The first part of the text
described a bedroom. This was done in order to provide a framework to be able to activate
schemas. The second part of the text plays with the concepts of schematic knowledge by
narrating impossible and random things. The purpose of doing that was to observe the
subjects reaction to a text which did not fit in their schemas. The text could be categorized
as nonsense/fiction story, as the last part of it contains information which does not apply to
general logic. This, in result, could cause conflicts in the process of recalling (Belli &
Nemeth, 2006).
Ral se encuentra ahora dentro de su habitacin. La habitacin es de tamao
mediano y est muy iluminada. Tiene dos focos, una ventana y un colchn. El
colchn est cubierto con un edredn naranja con puntos amarillos. Raul est parado
con los pies descalzos en el colchn y est arrullando una manzana roja. La
manzana est cantando una cancin de cuna. La cancin est tejiendo un paal de
lluvia. La habitacin de raul espera emocionada el momento en que se comer a
todos los que estn dentro de ella. Una vez que lo haya hecho, no volver a sentirse
Statements selection
The statements included questions about the whole text. Some of the statements were true
and some others false. The statements were designed to test the reactions to the
confrontation of schematic knowledge and the actual text. I will explain in greater detail
each statement in the analysis of results.
1.- La habitacin de Ral es grande.
2.- La habitacin de Ral tiene dos ventanas.
3.- La habitacin de Ral tiene un colchn con un edredn.
4.- El edredn tiene puntos blancos.
5. Ral est sentado en el colchn.
6. Ral est arrullando una manzana roja con los pies descalzos.
7. La manzana est tejiendo un paal.
8. La habitacin de Raul se siente enojada.
9. La manzana est escribiendo una cancin de cuna.
10. La cancin de cuna est dentro de la habitacin.

Subjects selection
For this experiment I chose 6 random participants. No age or gender distinctions were
Data collection
To collect the data I met with every participant individually. I gave the instructions, then I
read the text and had the subjects mark the statements, and finally I asked them about how
they recalled the information. In the instructions they were told they would listen to a text
and afterwards they would have to read 8 statements and decide if the statements were
mentioned in the text or not. If the statement was mention, they had to put a check on it. If
it was not mentioned, they did not need to mark it.
Data analysis
To analyze the data I tabulated the test results in a chart and proceeded to find patterns or
interesting numbers in the chart. I classified the answers they gave me as correct or
incorrect. Then I also looked for patterns in the question I made on how they remembered
the information.

Description of results
Question Recalled
1 5
2 2
3 5
4 5
5 6
6 5
7 5
8 4

As it can be seen, most of the questions were answered correctly.
1. La habitacin de Raul es grande.
This statement was false. Five subjects marked it correctly. One of the reasons could be the
primacy effect. Since it was the first thing mentioned in the text, it was easier to recall. The
five subjects were really confident about this statement.
2. La habitacin de Raul tiene dos ventanas.
This was a question which played with schematic knowledge, and clearly, only two
subjects had the correct answer. The statement was false. There were two light bulbs
instead of two windows. It is comprehensible here that a bedroom has usually only one
light bulb and it is possible to have two windows. The subjects probably remembered the
number two, and their schematic knowledge indicated that it was possible to have two
windows. Since it was not a common feature in our world, the subjects did not process this
3. La habitacin de Raul tiene un colchn con un edredn.
This statement was true. Five subjects had the correct answer. I consider they had it correct
because they were using their knowledge built up from the text so far properly. The subject
who had it incorrectly said he got distracted at that point.
4. El edredn tiene puntos blancos.
This question was difficult for all of the subjects. They all mentioned they remembered the
blanket had dots, but that they could not recall the color. The statement was false. Five of
the subjects decided not to mark it and got it correct. However, no one actually remembered
this information and they randomly decided the answer. For this reason, I would say that all
of them got it incorrect. This is due to their knowledge built of from the text so far
schematic knowledge, which aids on determining which information is important and
which is not. Nobody considered the color of the dots was important and, therefore, no one
could recall it.
5. Ral est sentado en el colchn.
This statement was false, and everyone answered it correctly. This was due to their
knowledge built of from the text so far schematic knowledge, because that one is in charge
of setting up a representation of the text. All of the subjects had a strong representation of
this part of the text. I think they considered this information important because people do
not usually sit on mattresses, so it was something that might have caught their attention.
6. Ral est arrullando una manzana roja con los pies descalzos.
This statement was true, and five subjects gave the correct answer. This was so because I
think the statement had a lot of clues in it, so it was easy to remember. This statement also
marks the point where the text begins to become fiction. It is unusual to lull an apple. One
of the subjects mentioned she could remember the story because she thought it was poetic
and beautiful. This statement starts to include information which does not match with the
subjects world knowledge, but it still has some elements that do, so it is possible to know.
This statement could also have been correct because it has written in the same way it was
done in the text, so a verbatim recall occurred here.
7. La manzana est tejiendo un paal.
This statement was false. Five subjects got it correct, but they were unsure about it, so it
does not really have merit. This was a complicated statement due to two reasons. The first
reason is that here is where world knowledge is confronted. Some subjects mentioned they
lost track in this part because the story was so weird that it was impossible to follow it. The
second reason was because the text did mentioned that a diaper was being woven, but not
by the apple, but by the lullaby. Some subjects indicated they remember something about a
diaper, but that was it.
8. La habitacin de Ral se siente enojada.
This statement was true. Four subjects answered correctly. I consider the ones who
answered correctly did so because that information was the last thing they heard, so the
recency effect tells us that the last items presented tend to be recalled first.

From this experiment, it becomes evident that schematic knowledge plays an important role
in recalling elements. Here, the subjects working memory was challenged to remember
elements that did not match their schematic knowledge. In those occasions where their
world knowledge was confronted, they could not answer. Moreover, their working memory
also decided not to remember certain things, as in the case of the color of the dots.

Field, J. (2003). Psycholinguistics: A resource book for students. London: Routledge.
Konopka, A. E., & Benjamin, A. S. (2009). Schematic knowledge changes what
judgments of learning predict in a source memory task. Mem Cognit, 37(1), 42-51.
Lee, M. W. (1997). Why is short-term sentence recall verbatim? An evaluation of the role
of lexical priming. Mem Cognit, 25(2), 156-172.
Nemeth, R. J. (2006). The Influence of Schematic Knowledge on Contradictory versus
Additive Misinformation: False Memory for Typical and Atypical Items. Faculty
Publications, Department of Psychology.
Potter, M. C., & Lombardi, L. (1998). Syntactic Priming in Immediate Recall of
Sentences.Journal of Memory and Language, 38, 265-282.

22 de abril de 2014
Irapuato, Guanajuato

Estimado participante:

Mi nombre es Jimena Aza Guerrero y soy estudiante de la Licenciatura en Enseanza
del Ingls en la Universidad de Guanajuato. Estoy realizando una investigacin para la
materia de Psicolingstica sobre el funcionamiento de la memoria.
El participante escuchar un texto y posteriormente responder un cuestionario acerca del
texto. Yo colectar los cuestionarios escritos por el participante. nicamente yo tendr
acceso a la informacin reunida.
La informacin ser usada exclusivamente para realizar el proyecto de la clase de
Psicolingstica. La participacin conservar el anonimato, es decir, no utilizar su nombre
en ningn momento y la informacin colectada no ser comentada con nadie; se utilizar
nicamente para el proyecto.
Usted es libre de abandonar el proyecto en cualquier momento deseado y, en dado caso,
la informacin no ser utilizada.
Puedo proporcionarle una copia de mi reporte final de la investigacin a su peticin una
vez que la investigacin haya concluido.
En caso de tener cualquier duda con respecto a la investigacin, por favor contcteme al
telfono celular 462 482 1156, o al correo electrnico
Finalmente, le agradezco profundamente por tomarse el tiempo de ayudarme con mi
proyecto de investigacin. Su participacin es muy apreciada.


Jimena Aza Guerrero