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An experiment to see if interference affects recall in short-term memory.

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Tom Clarke An experiment to see if interference affects recall in short-term memory Introduction One of the most influential models of memory was the two-process model by Atkinson and Schiffrin (1968); incoming information enters the short-term memory (STM) as a result of applying attention to a stimulus. The brain makes sense of the incoming sensory information by perception, and then in the rehearsal loop, the information is rehearsed before it is stored in the long-term memory (LTM). The rehearsal loop is an important part of this model as it is what enables information to be remembered more easily and stored in the LTM. Peterson and Peterson (1959) made an experiment where they researched the capacity of the STM. The experiment was called 'The Brown-Peterson technique', which involved participants hearing various trigrams (such as XPJ). Only one trigram is presented on each trial. Immediately afterwards, the participants are instructed to recall what they heard or to count backwards, in threes, out loud, from some specified number for 3,6,9,12,15 or 18 seconds (the retention interval). The function of this interference task is to prevent rehearsal. At the end of the time period, the participants try to recall the trigram. Peterson found that nearly 70 per cent was forgotten after only a nine-second delay, and 90 per cent after 18 seconds. The STM is believed to hold information for about 20 seconds without repeating it (rehearsal). If information is sufficiently rehearsed it will be transferred to the LTM and can be recalled. It is also said that unattended information may also enter the STM, and this may be due to not applying enough attention to the information that needs to be rehearsed and may affect recall. ...read more.


Opportunity sampling was used to choose these 12 objects found around the school and at home, finding any type of object of similar sizes to fit on a table, suitable to use in a school environment. This type of sampling enabled the objects to be varied and not just from one particular environment, preventing schemas to make recall easier. - The other table is used to write down how many objects the participant can recall. - The Third table is used for the interference task (10 books in alphabetical order). Opportunity sampling was used to find the books, finding them within the psychology classroom. Results Summary Table Measure of central tendency Number of objects recalled With interference Without interference Mean 7.7 8.3 Mode 7 9 Median 7.5 8.5 Range 6 3 Summary Table Commentary From the summary table, the results support the hypotheses. The mean, mode and median without interference were higher than with interference. There was not a large difference between these, which shows that the hypotheses were not as convincing as expected. From the results recorded there were some results that seemed anomalous, 11 objects were recalled with interference, and this was the highest result. This participant however, was a psychology student, and from the results a pattern could be seen where the psychology students recalled more objects than non- psychology students. Descriptive Statistics Commentary From the bar graph, the mean, mode and median for the objects recalled with and without interference can be identified a lot more clearly. The obvious trend is the fact that they are higher without interference. ...read more.


From gathering research from Atkinson and Schiffrin, the idea of the rehearsal loop taking place, is very relevant to this study. The rehearsal loop provides evidence for this study because the fact that when trying to remember things such as the objects in this experiment, rehearsal is very much needed, and that disrupting this, causes less recall. Generalisation of the Findings The problems with generalising the results to populations outside the target population are that the ages of people will be widespread in the entire population and this would affect the validity and reliability of the results. The older people are, the less capacity they have in the STM, and the younger people are, the more capacity they have. Disabilities among people would also affect the results and so it is particularly difficult to generalise the results to the entire population. The method that would need to be used to generalise this would be to match the different age groups, gender, disability and perhaps the occupational status in order to gather reliable results. It would be difficult to use any population, and produce reliable results because of the large amount of individual differences there are amongst people. Application of the Study to Everyday Life One real life application of the results could be when watching television whilst doing homework. The television would interfere with the rehearsal of information from the homework. The attention of an individual would be attracted to the noise the television is making and the picture it is displaying. Therefore, when doing homework, particularly revision, the individual's rehearsal of information in the STM will be disrupted, and less information will be stored in the LTM. This would therefore cause less recall when in a school exam. ...read more.

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