Psychology Unit 1 Research Studies

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Memory Research Studies

Peterson and Peterson

Aim: To see if rehearsal was necessary to hold information in th short-term store.

Method: Participants were given sets of three letters to remember (e.g. GWK), but they were immediately asked to count backwards in threes for different lengths of time. This was done to prevent rehearsal. The participants were then asked to recall the letters in the correct order.

Results: The results of the study showed that participants had forgotten virtually all of the information after 18 seconds.

Conclusion: It was concluded that we cannot hold in formation in the short-term store unless we can rehearse it.

Evaluation: Participants in the study only had to learn nonsense syllables or lists of words. In everyday life, these are not the type of memory tasks people usually have to do. Therefore, the study lacks ecological validity.

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Memory Research Studies


Aim: To provide evidence to support the multi-store explanation of memory.

Method: Participants had to learn a list of words presented one at a tiome, for two seconds per word and then recall the words in any order. 

Results: The words at the end of the list were recalled first (known as the recency effect). Words from the beginning of the list were also recalled quite well (known as the primary effect), but the middle words were not recalled very well at all.

Conclusion: Murdock concluded that this provides evidence for separate long term and short term stores.

Evaluation: Not everything we learn has to be rehearsed as many everyday events can be remembered easily. However, the study does help us understand why it is difficult to remember sets of numbers or letters such as, a car regristration number or a telephone number.

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Memory Research Studies


Aim: To see if people, when given something unfamiliar to remember, would alter the information.

Method: Participats were asked to read a story called 'War of the Ghosts,' which was a Native American legend. Later they were asked to retell the story as accurately as possible. This retelling was repeated several times during the weeks that followed.

Results: Bartlett discovered that his participants found it difficult to remember bits of story concerned with spirits and they therefore changed other bits of the story  so that it made more sense to them. Each time they retold the story they changed it some more.

Conclusion: Bartlett concluded that our memory is influenced by our own beliefs.

Evaluation: The story 'War of the Ghosts' is confusing and is not similar to our everyday experiences. It is also difficult to measure the accuracy of stories told with a reliable scoring method.

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Memory Research Studies

Wynn and Logie

Aim: To see if the recall of familiar stories changed in the same way that Bartlett found with unfamiliar stories.

Method: They asked university students to recall details of their first week at university. They were asked to do this several times throughout the year.

Results: The results showed that the accuracy of their descriptions remained the same no matter how many times they were asked to recall the information. This is unlike Bartlett's participants who changed their story with every telling.

Conclusion: Wynn and Logie concluded that memories for familiar events will not change over time.

Evaluation: Wynn and Logie's participants may not have had accurate stories to begin with, therefore it is dfficult to measure the accuracy of stories told with a reliable scoring method.

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Memory Research Studies

Craik and Lockhart

Aim: To see if the type of questions asked about words will have an effect on the number of words recalled.

Method: Particpants were presented with a list of words, one at a time , and asked questions  about each word, to which they had to answer 'yes' or 'no'. Some questions required structural processing of the word; others required phonetic processing and the remainder required semantic processing. They were then given a longer list of words and asked to identify the words they had answered questions about.

Results: Participants identified 70% of the words that required semantic processing, 35% of the words that required phonetic processing and 15% of the words that required structural processing.

Conclusion: The more deeply information is processed, the more likely it is to be remembered.

Evaluation: It does not explain why deeper levels of processing helps memory.

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