Peterson and Peterson (1959)

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  • Peterson and Peterson (1959)
    • Aim
      • To investigate how long information can be retained in the STM
    • Procedure
      • Participants were presented with sets of nonsense trigrams to learn
        • To prevent rehearsal they had to count backwards in threes from a given 3-digit number
          • Participants were aware that they would be asked to recall the trigrams in the correct order
          • A delay of 3,6,9,12,15 or 18 seconds was introduced before recall
    • Results
      • After 3 seconds 80% of the trigrams were successfully recalled. 50% for 6 seconds, 30% for 9 seconds and after 18 seconds recall fell to around 10%
    • Conclusion
      • STM lasts no more than 20 seconds and without rehearsal will fade quickly
    • Evaluation
      • Everyday distractions are often far less focused than counting backwards in three's and do not cause the high level of interference of the study
      • Findings cannot be applied to everyday memory as we would not respond to meaningful information in the same way
      • Lab experiment so low ecological validity and participants knew they had to recall trigrams so therefore demand characteristics may be present


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