Reports of anthropologists since the early seventeenth century suggested that memory was one cognitive process that was more highly developed in non-literate, ``primitives'' than in literate people. Apart from the fact that the notion of ``primitive cultures'' has since been abandoned, experimental evidence on memory does not indicate any superiority of non-literates over literate people. Nonetheless, the social relevance and importance attached to a subject matter does determine how well it will be remembered. In more recent work the cross-cultural approach has been primarily used to identify factors in the early environment, which affect subsequent cognitive development. Formal schooling and an urban environment might be two such important environmental factors.
To what extent are models of memory general in that they could be applied irrespective of cultural influences? What is it that determines culture specificity? Is there such specificity in the first place? Some more questions and hopefully answers, in the second seminar on Memory.
Cole, Michael and Sylvia Scribner (1974) Culture and Thought: A Psychological Introduction. New York: John Wiley.
Bartlett, F.C. (1977) Remembering - A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge: University Press.
Harvey, John H. (1981) Cognition, Social Behaviour and the Environment. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Wagner, Daniel A (1978) Memories of Morocco: The Influence of Age, Schooling and Environment on Memory, Cognitive Psychology. Vol. 10 (1), pp. 1-28.
Cole, Michael The Illusion of Culture-free Intelligence Testing. http://communication.ucsd.edu/MCA/Paper/Cole/iq.html