Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Simon, Seymore

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Schizophrenics; Memory


The present study examined the long-term memory (LTM) organization of significant life events in three groups of subjects: 20 normal college undergraduates, 15 nonschizophrenic psychiatric inpatients, and 20 schizophrenic inpatients. According to recently proposed theories of human information processing, information stored in LTM is accessed in the course of perceiving or recognizing incoming stimuli. Depending on the outcome of this process, particular responses are made in reaction to the subjective meaning of the stimuli. Based on this view of information processing and behavior, schizophrenia was conceptualized primarily as a subsequent outcome of the recognition/interpretation process utilizing an LTM which is aberrant in terms of its organization or format. More particularly, process schizophrenia, a much more insidious and protracted subtype of schizophrenia, was hypothesized to be the result of behavior based on a deviant LTM organization established in childhood and subsequently used throughout adolescence and adulthood. A Mandler type sorting task was administered to each group in order to determine the nature of their LTM formats. The stimuli consisted of sentences which referred to past life events that most people experience in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Furthermore, the sentences were constructed to tap six distinct categories with half of the sentences in each category independently rated by undergraduate psychology students as emotional and the other half rated as nonemotional. Subjects repeatedly sorted the sentences until they reached a criterion of making similar sorting patterns on two consecutive sorting trials or until ten sort trials had elapsed, whichever came first. Then each subject was instructed to recall the sentences. Parametric results showed that almost half of the subjects (44%) failed to impose a similar sorting pattern on the sentences within ten trials. Practically all schizophrenics failed to reach this criterion. Schizophrenics reaching criterion took significantly more trials to criterion than normals and nonschizophrenics. Consequently, schizophrenics recalled significantly less than either nonschizophrenics or normals and nonschizophrenics recalled significantly less than normals. With respect to the relationship between organization (the number of categories formed) and recall (the number of sentences recalled), a moderate relationship was found when considering all subjects combined and when considering only those subjects who reached criterion. When the number of trials to criterion was held constant statistically, the magnitude of the relationship was essentially identical. Regression analyses revealed that age and IQ may have contributed to recall performance, but not exclusively. Nonparametric analyses revealed that each group organized the sentences in essentially the same manner with no regard for the emotionality dimension. The pattern of results indicated that normals, nonschizophrenics, and schizophrenics have similar LTM organizations. In light of this similarity, the differential recall performance implies that nonorganizational factors such as retrieval or encoding may be operating to determine recall performance. This conclusion is consistent with previous research indicating that schizophrenia may be the result of dysfunctional, nonorganizational control processes (e.g., encoding or retrieval).


iii, 110 pages




Northern Illinois University

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