Memory Key Studies


Bower and Springston (1970)

Aim: Test the effects of chunking.

Method: There were two groups of participants. The first was presented with a series of letters (ex: FB, IPH, DC, IA). The second group were presented with the same letters, but put into meaningful chunks (ex: FBI, PHD, CIA). Both groups were then asked to recall the letters.

Results: The group with the chunked list recalled more letters than the group with the unchunked list.

Conclusion: Chunking increses the capacity of short term memory. This is because it is in smaller, meaningful chunks. For example, you know that the FBI is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and are more likely to remember that than random meaningless letters. It relates it to information already in our long-term memory.

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Murdock (1962)

Aim: To invesigate free recall, and the effect on a persons memory.

Method: He gave participants a list of words to remember. He then asked participants to recall them in any order.

Results: The words at the end of the list were recalled first (the recency effect) and the words at the start of the list were recalled next (the primacy effect).

Conclusion: The recency effect means that the words were still in the partipants short term memory, so were recalled first. The primacy effect means that the words that the participants saw first had been moved to long term memory, and therefore, are easier to recall. 

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Craik and Tulving (1975)

Aim: To see if the level at which information is processed affects the persons memory of the information.

Method: The participants were told they were in a study to test speed of reaction and perception. They were presented with a word, and then a question about the word. There were 3 different questions to test each level of processing:
-Structural level: Is the word in capital leters?
-Phonetic level: Does the word rhyme with ...?
-Sematic level: Does the word fit in this sentence: ...?
Participants were then given a list of words, and were asked to circle the words that they had seen earlier in the experiment.

18% of the words processed at a structural level were remembered.
50% of the words processed at a phonetic level were remembered.
80% of the words processed at a sematic level were remembered.

Conclusion: If things are processed at a sematic level, they are processed at a deeper level than strucural or phonetic, and things processed at a deeper level are rememred better. 

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Bartlett (1932)

Aim: To test the idea that people use previous knowledge to make sense of new information.

Method: Participants were asked to read the 'War of the Ghosts' story. After, over ranges on a few hours to a few months, they were asked to recall everything they could remember.

Results: Bartlett found that people had added thier own meaning to the story, and reconstructed their memories to make sence of it. In particuar, he noticed that people had:

  • Added parts in or missed bits out
  • Added emphasis on certain parts
  • Changed the order of incidence

Conclusion: Bartlett said that we use perivious knowledge, or schemas, to help us make sence of new information.

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Underwood and Postman (1960)

Aim: To test the retroactive interference theory.

Method: There were two groups of participants. They were both presented with a list of word pairs (ex: cat-tree, book-tractor.). The second group were presente with a second list of word pairs (ex: cat-glass, book-revolver), that had the same first word as the first list, but different second words. Both groups were then asked to recall words from the first list.

Results: The group who learned only one list recalled the words more accuratly then the group who learned two lists.

Conclusion: due to retroactive interference, the words in the second list interfered with the group's ability to recall the first list of words.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974)

Aim: To test the effect of leadign questions on a persons memory of an event.

Method: There were three groups of participants. They all watched a film of a traffic accident. They were then asked questions about it. The key one being 'How fast was the car going when it hit/smashed into the other cars?'. One group was asked the question with 'hit', one was asked with 'smashed', and the other wasn't asked this question (its the control group).

The 'Hit' group reported the car as going about 34mph, but the 'smashed' group reported it as going about 41mph. 
One week later, participants were asked more questions. The key one being if they had seen broken glass, there wasn't any in the film. This is to see how the verbs would affect their memories of the event.
32% of the 'smashed' group repoted seeing broken glass, 14% of the 'hit' group said they had seen glass, and 12% of the control group reported seeing broken glass.

Conclusion: The 'smashed' group were more likely to report seeing broken glass because of the verb used. Smashed is harsher than hit, so participants would've remembered the accident as being harsher than the 'hit' group. 12% of the control group reported seeing glass because the fact that the question was there led them to think they had seen it. It is a leading question.

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Bousfield (1963)

Aim: To see if people organise information in long-term memory.

Method: He showed participants a list of words, and then asked them to recall them, in any order, using free recall. All of the words fell under one of four categories: vegetables, animals, professions, or names.

Results: When recalling them, participants remembered in clusters from the same categories.

Conclusion: Information gets spontaneously organised into categories, by meaning.

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Godden and Baddley (1975)

Aim: To see if context affects a persons memory.

Method: They had two groups of deep sea divers. One group went underwater, and one stayed on the beach. Both groups had to learn a list of words. Then each of the groups were split in half. Half on the groups stayed in the same place, and the other half went to the opposite place. They were then asked to recall the words on the list.

Results: The divers who had to recall the words in the same place they had learned them remembered the words more accurately than the people who had to go to the opposite place to recall them.

Conclusion: If you recall information in the same place you originally learned it, then you will remember better than if you recalled the information in a different place.

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