Grant et al

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Grant et al

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Key terms

Cue dependency= The idea that when a to-be-remembered item is stored, other pieces of information present at the same time are stored with it

Recall= The assessing of memories with very few prompts

Recognition= We are required to decide which of two or more items we have seen before

Meaningful items= Items that are understandable and we can relate to them

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Many studies have shown that recall is better when the participant is in the same environment during recall as they were when the learning occurred

  • This effect was originally explained by the encoding specificity principle (Tulving) as the consequence of 'context-dependency effects'
  • This suggests that some aspects of the environment during learning are encoded with the to-be-remembered item and become part of the 'memory trace'- These cues can help with retrieval of learned items
  • Godden and Baddely- Showed that in contexts matched for encoding and retrieval, the effects of context were much greater than mismatched contexts
  • Smith, Vela and Williamson- Found no context-dependency effects on recognition using different levels of processing as contexts> Recall and retrieval rely on different processes
  • Grant et al- Suggested that perhaps an important difference between study environments and test environments was the amount of background noise
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To test the effect of noise as a source of context on the studying and retrieval of meaningful material in an academic context

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  • 39 participants aged 17-56
  • 17 females and 23 males
  • Recruited by opportunity sampling- psychology students
  • 8 psychology students acted as experimenters and recruited 5 participants each (the result from one participant was excluded)

Independant variable

  • Whether the study and test conditions were matched or mismatched

Dependant variable

  • How accurately the participants recalled and retrieved the information
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Method- Design and procedure

  • Lab experiment
  • Independant measures design

Matching condition
Study context: Silent
Test context: Silent

Study context: Noisy
Test context: Noisy

Mis-matching condition
Study context: Noisy
Test context: Silent

Study context: Silent
Test context: Noisy

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Method- Procedure


  • 2 page article on psychoimmunology
  • Noisy tape of a cafeteria at lunch time
  • Headphones
  • 2 tests- Recall and retrieval


  • 30 minutes
  • Standardised instructions- All participants had to wear headphones
  • Participants asked to read the article which was interesting and understandable
  • Reading time was recorded but not controlled
  • During reading, all participants wore headphones
  • They then had a 2 minute break
  • They were asked to complete 2 tests
  • The short answer questions (for recall) were given to participants first to ensure that material was being recalled from the article itself rather than from the multiple choice questions (for retrieval)
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  • All participants spent about the same time reading the article
  • There were no significant patterns for the individual variables ie: whether material was learned or retrieved in each environment made no difference on the test results
  • However, there was an interaction between study and test conditions- performance was significantly better in matching conditions than non-matching conditions
  • This suggests that recall is better when studying ad testing are performed in similar environments in terms of noisiness of the surroundings

SAQ- Silent matching:
SAQ- Mismatching:

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  • As there was no Independant effect of noise on performance, the claim made by students that 'noise doesn't affect their capacity to study' is supported
  • However, as context-dependence affects in both SAQ and MCQ, students should study in quiet surroundings as exams are normally held in silence
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The research method

  • Lab experiments allow you to control extraneous variables- Participants had the same standardised instructions as they all had to wear headphones
  • Controlled conditions as there was a 2 minute break between studying and testing- Improves validity and reliability
  • Some variables couldn't be standardised eg: length of time to read the article

Quantitative and qualitative data

  • Quantitative data- Statistics are easy to compare and analyse
  • Easy to establish the cause and effect- Matching or mis-matching affects retrieval
  • No qualitative data- Not getting participants opinions on what it felt like to study in silence
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Evaluation- 2

Ethical considerations

  • Participants were aware that they were participating, they weren't deceived and they were debriefed
  • Participants gave informed consent- They were aware that the experiment would test their reading comprehension
  • They were given the right to withdraw from the study


  • Controlled conditions and realistic materials- Improves validity
  • The results show that silent study is best- May be difficult to implement these strategies
  • The materials used were meaningful but not relevant ie: they may not study psychoimmunology- Lacks ecological validity
  • The participants only completed 30 minutes of studying, therefore it might not be generalisable to longer periods of study
  • Boredom, day dreaming and levels of motivation normally effect the time spent studying, so it lacks ecological validity
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Evaluation- 3


  • Standardised materials (headphones and tape), procedure and instructions (eg: to ignore the content of the tape)- Makes it easy to replicate
  • There was a pattern of results across both conditions
  • Time taken to read the article was recorded but not controlled- Reduces reliability

Sampling bias

  • All participants were psychology students that knew the researcher- Unrepresentative because they're used to taking in information and being tested on it
  • Good age spread and roughly equal numbers of males and females
  • Psychology students- Increased risk of demand characteristics

Practical applications

  • Study habits- Students should try studying in silence
  • Taking witnesses back to the scene of the crime may help improve the accuracy of their testimony
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