Grant et al - Context dependent memory for meaningful material

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Grant et al (1998)

Context-dependent memory for meaningful material

Background and Context

Godden and Baddeley (1975) studied the effect of context on the memory of deep sea divers. They learnt words on land or in the water and then recalled the words on land or in the water. They did better when they recalled the words in the same environment that they were learnt. Grant wanted to investigate whether this was only the case for recall rather than recognition.

Key terms and Definitions

Recall - Remembering information without any cues. Short answer questions SAQ

Recognition - Remembering information when some cues are provided. Multiple choice questions MCQ

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Aims and Hypotheses 

To test for context dependency effects caused by the presence or absense of noise during learning and retrieval of meaningful material.

Research Methods

A laboratory experiment because it had an IV and DV, and was controlled.

Experimental Design

Independent measures - Each participant takes part in one condition 


Oppurtunity sample - 8 members of a psychology class found 5 people each to be participants. They consisted of friends and family.

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Grant et al (1998)

Sample Characteristics

39 participants (One was removed due to poor results), aged 17-56.

17 Males and 23 Females

Independent Variables

Study context - Silent or Noisy

Test context - Silent or Noisy

Dependent Variables

Short answer questions (Recall)

Multiple choice questions (Recognition)

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Participants were read aloud standard instructions that described the tasks as part of a class project and which emphasised that they were voluntary. Participants read the article once and were told that they could highlight as they read. Each procedure lasted 30 minutes each and each participant was tested seperately. As a control all participants wore headphones even in the silent condition. In the test phrase of the experiment, they answered a set of questions with recall first and recognition second. Afterwards participants were then debriefed about the true meaning of the study.


- The questions asked

- Headphones always worn

- Article read

- Order of questions

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Recall (SAQ)                               

                                     Silent study                            Noisy study

Silent test                           |6.7|                                        |5.4|

Noisy test                           |4.6|                                        |6.2|


Recognition (MCQ)                               

                                     Silent study                            Noisy study

Silent test                           |14.3|                                       |12.7|

Noisy test                           |12.7|                                       |14.3|

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Type of Data



- Context dependency effect found for both recognition and recall questions

- Students should learn in a similar environment to what they'll be tested in

- Grant suggested that as he was measuring understanding/meaningful text, this is why he found the effect on recognition

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Grant et al (1998) - Evaluation

Sampling - Oppurtunity

Strengths - Quick and easy to gather participants

Weaknesses - Non representitive and bias to pick certain people

Research Method - Laboratory Experiment

Strengths - Reliable and valid with controls

Weaknesses - Not relatable to real life e.g. wearing headphones to hear background noise

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Grant et al (1998) - Evaluation



- Informed consent

- Confidentiality

- Protection from harm

- Debrief

Similarity to Loftus and Palmer

- Both kept participants free from harm

- Both had no details taken from the participants (Confidentual)

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Grant et al (1998) - Evaluation


Internal - The experiment had many control variables and was standardised

External - A consistent effect was found between conditions. E.g memory of matching conditions was found to be higher.


Internal - It had a variety of indepedent variables to compare

External - It resembles real life tasks such as studying for exams


It only applies to western education, not all education uses the same form of examination and testing.

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Grant et al (1998) - Evaluation

Link to the cognitive area - Investigates the process of memory.

Link to the key theme of memory - Shows how matching/mismatching conditions affect memory and how well things are remembered (Context dependent memory).

Links to Debates

Psychology as a science - A controlled environment and based his aims on previous studies. 

Usefulness - Direct application to advise students how to revise for an exam.

-Police can also help eye witnesses recall information by taking them back to the environment they witnessed the event

Individual/Situational - This study suggests recall of memory is situational (in context)

- Memory skills vary between people so can influence recall (Individual)

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These notes are great and have enough detail, however, the findings didn't show up cause I'm guessing they were images. 

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