Memory Research

  • Created by: ash8642
  • Created on: 17-04-19 11:25



  • Different list of words to 4 groups
    • Acoustically similar
    • Acoustically dissimilar
    • Semantically similar
    • Semantically dissimilar
  • When asked to recall immediately, acoustically similar words was worse
  • When asked to recall after 20 minutes, semantically similar words was worse
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  • Digit span technique
  • Participant given 4 digits to recall immediately
  • If correct, extra digit added to the sequence
  • Mean span for digits = 9.3 items, letter = 7.3


  • Noticed that things come in 7s (e.g. 7 notes of scale, 7 days of the week, etc)
  • Capacity of STM is 7+-2
  • Noted people can recall 5 words as well as they can 5 letters
    • chunking --> grouping sets of digits/letters into units/chunks
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Peterson + Peterson

  • 24 undergraduate students, each took part in 8 trials
  • Given a consonant syllable (trigram) to remember, and a 3-digit number
  • Asked to count back from the 3-digit number until told to stop
    • Prevents any mental rehearsal of consonant syllable
  • Each trail asked to stop after different amount of time (e.g. 3s, 6s, 9s, etc)
  • STM has short duration unless verbal rehearsal participated in
    • 18-30 seconds

Bahrick et al

  • 392 participants from Ohio, aged 17 to 74
  • High school yearbook obtained to test recall + recognition
    • photo-recognition of 50 photos, some from participant's yearbook
    • free recall of names from participant's graduating class
  • Photo recognition: 90% after 15yrs, 70% after 48yrs
  • Free recall: 60% after 15yrs, 30% after 48yrs
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Clinical Evidence

Clive Wearing

  • Professional musician
  • Contracted herpes
    • Damaged his hippocampus
  • Duration of STM is 7 seconds
  • Unable to transfer new memories to LTM
  • Procedural memory intact - still able to play the piano


  • Suffered brain damage
  • Had poor STM ability for verbal information, but could process visual information normally
    • Difficulty with sounds, but could recall digits/letters
    • STM poor when digits read to him, but much better when he read them to himself
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Interference Theory

McGeoch and McDonald

  • Studied retroactive interference by changing amount of similarity between two materials
  • Participants learn list of 10 words until 100% accurate
  • Learn a second list
    • synonyms
    • antonyms
    • words unrelated to original list
    • consonant syllables
    • three-digit numbers
    • no new list
  • Recall performance of first list dependent on the nature of the second list
  • Synonyms condition produced worst recall
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Context-Dependent Forgetting

Godden and Baddeley

  • Study of deep-sea divers
  • Learned a list of words either on-land or underwater
  • Recall either on-land or underwater
  • Accurate recall was 40% lower when conditions did not match (i.e. learnt on-land, recall underwater)
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State-Dependent Forgetting

Carter and Cassaday

  • Participants given anti-histamine drugs for hay fever
  • Drugs contained a mild sedative making participants slightly drowsy
  • Creates a internal psychological state different from 'normal' state of alert and awake
  • Participants given list of words, and passages of prose to learn and recall
  • 4 conditions created
    • learn on drug, recall on it
    • learn on drug, recall off of it
    • learn not on drug, recall on it
    • learn not on drug, recall off of it
  • Where internal states were mismatched, performance was significantly worse
    • Absent cues (e.g. drowsy when learning, but alert when recalling)
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Leading Questions

Loftus and Palmer pt1

  • Paticipants to watch film clips of car accidents and then given questions to answer
  • Participants asked "about how fast were the cars going when they ___ each other?"
    • Hit
    • Contacted
    • Bumped
    • Collided
    • Smashed
  • Mean estimated speed was calculated for each group
    • Contacted = 31.8mph
    • Smashed = 40.5mph

Loftus and Palmer pt2

  • Wording of leading question can change participant's memory
  • Those who orginially heard 'smashed' more likely to say there was broken glass compared to those who heard 'hit'
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Post-Event Discussion

Gabbert et al

  • Participants studied in pairs
  • Each participant watched a video of the same crime, but from different perspectives
  • Participants discussed what they had seen before being individually tested
  • 71% of participants mistakenly recalled apects of the event that they had not seen, but picked up in discussion
  • Control group (no discussion) had corresponding figure of 0%
  • Memory conformity - change either to win social approval or believe other witness is right/they are wrong
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Anxiety - Negative Effect

Johnson and Scott

  • Participants led to believe they were taking part in lab study
  • While in waiting room, participants heard argument in next room
  • Low-anxiety condition - man walked through room carrying a pen with grease on his hands
  • High-anxiety condition - heard breaking glass, and man walked through the room carrying a paper knife covered in blood
  • Participants later asked to pick out man from line-up of 50 photos
  • 49% in low-anxiety condition were able to identify the man
  • 33% in high-anxiety condition correctly indentified the man
  • Tunnel theory - witness's attention drawn to focus on the weapon
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Anxiety - Positive Effect

Yuille and Cutshall

  • Study of a real-life shooting in a gun shop in Canada
  • Shop owner shot dead the thief
  • 13 out of 21 witnesses agreed to take part
  • Interviews took place 4-5 months after incident, to be compared with original police interviews
  • Accuracy determined by number of details reported in each account
  • Asked to rate how stressed they felt at the time using 7-point scale + emotional problems since
  • Witnesses very accurate in accounts + little change in amount/accuracy 5 months later
  • Those who reported highest levels of stress were most accurate
    • 88% compared to 75% for less-stressed group
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