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Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett (1886-1969) was a British psychologist and the first professor of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge. He was one of the forerunners of cognitive psychology. However, while Bartlett considered his own work on cognitive psychology, especially remembering, to be a study in social psychology more recent developments have individualised his concepts.
He originally graduated from London University with an MA in Sociology and Ethics , before going to St John's College, Cambridge where he graduated in Moral Science .
He was appointed Reader and Director of the Cambridge Psychological Laboratory in 1922. In 1931 he was appointed to the new Chair of Experimental Psychology and held it until his retirement in 1951.
With Kenneth Craik he was responsible for setting up the Medical Research Council's Applied Psychology Research Unit (APU) at Cambridge in 1944, becoming Director of the unit after Craik's early death in 1945.He was one of the forerunners of cognitive psychology.
One of his most famous studies was on the cognitive and social processes of remembering. He retrieved a series of short fables (the best known was the Native American fable called The War of the Ghosts), each of which comprised a sequence of events which were ostensibly logical but subtly illogical, and there were several discreet non-sequiturs. He would recite this story to subjects, then later (sometimes much later) ask them to recall as much of it as possible. He discovered that most people found it extremely difficult to recall the story exactly, even after repeated readings, and hypothesised that, where the elements of the story failed to fit into the schemata of the listener, these elements were omitted from the recollection, or transformed into more familiar forms.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1932 (a rare distinction for a psychologist), and knighted in 1948 for services to the Royal Air Force, on the basis of his wartime work in applied psychology. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958. In 1948 Bartlett was invited to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on The Mind at Work and Play. The U.K. Ergonomics Society awards a Bartlett medal in his honour, and the Experimental Psychology Society holds an annual Bartlett Lecture.
(dates are not necessarily those of original publication)
- Remembering (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1932)
- Thinking (Basic Books, New York, 1958)
- The problem of noise (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1934)
- Exercises in logic (Clive, London, 1922)
- The mind at work and play (Allen and Unwin, London, 1951)
- Psychology and the soldier (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1927)
- Political propaganda (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1940)
- Psychology and primitive culture (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1923)
- Religion as experience, belief, action (Cumberledge, London, 1950)
Ahlberg. S. W and Sharps, M. J. (2002) Bartlett revisited: reconfiguration of long-term memory in young and older adults, The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 2002, 163(2), 211-18.
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