Culture in Constructive Remembering

Brady Wagoner

in The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396430
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Culture in Constructive Remembering

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The present chapter explores novel ways of thinking about what it means to remember and how precisely culture is involved in this process. Since Plato, the dominant metaphor for conceptualizing memory has been that of a spatial storage.” In contrast to this, Frederic Bartlett advanced an alternative temporal metaphor of remembering as “construction.” If we push his metaphor further—with the help of cultural psychology—then we can say memory construction is done by agents using cultural “tools” such as language and narrative. In this chapter, Bartlett's theory is contextualized, elucidated, critiqued, and developed with the help of a number of other thinkers. The ultimate aim of the chapter is to go beyond Bartlett and arrive at a thoroughgoing culturally inclusive psychological theory of remembering. Although Bartlett clearly situated remembering within a social process, he did not provide a social mechanism through which acts of remembering become possible. By contrast, Mead, Halbwachs, and Vygotsky have argued that remembering becomes possible through signs or symbols that experientially carry us outside of our embodied first-person perspective into the perspectives of social others. The activity of remembering is itself a process of dynamically integrating suggestions from self and others. The tension between perspectives is what drives the process of remembering and ensures its creativity and constructiveness.

Keywords: memory; construction; bartlett; metaphor; schema; signs; narrative; tension; agency

Article.  16073 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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