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Does the use of a distracter affect short-term memory?

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Introduction

Does the use of a distracter affect short-term memory? Abstract After reading over the studies of Peterson and Peterson, and Glanzer and Cunitz, this investigation has been based around the subject of distracters and interferences with short-term memory. The aim of determining whether the use of a distracter affects short-term memory was investigated by asking participants - students - to memorise a list of words. After the first list they were simply asked to write down as many of the words as they could remember, however after they had looked at the second list they were presented with a distracter and then asked to write down all memorised words. The results and statistical test - Sign test (calculated value: 0, critical value: 3) - indicate that the use of a distracter does actually disrupt short-term memory as less words were recalled in the distracter condition. The theory is that the distracter inhibits any short-term memory being converted into long-term memory. Background The Atkinson-Shiffrin model of memory (1968, 1971) describes memory as a sequence composed of three stages. Sensory-memory is the initial stage and comes about from stimulation of the sensory organs, such as noticing a bright colour. ...read more.

Middle

Then these two sets of eight will switch over and complete the remaining task. This will help reduce demand characteristics and therefore make the results more viable. Task A: Each participant will be given a sheet of paper containing twenty-four, four letter words. They will be given ninety seconds to attempt to memorise these words. Once the memorisation time is up, they will be asked to write down all the words they remember and will be given a further ninety seconds for this. Task B: Each participant will be given a sheet of paper containing twenty -four, four letter words. They will be given ninety seconds to attempt to memorise these words. After the memorisation time is up, they shall be asked to complete four basic mathematical calculations. When the participant has completed these sums they will be given ninety seconds to write down as many words as they can remember from the list. All participants will be asked the same questions at the same point of the test as to keep a standardised investigation. A flow chart with a series of instructions was produced, enabling this to occur efficiently [see appendix for copy of flow-chart]. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another strength of the study was the standardised method used for all participants. Each participant was asked the same things at the same point in the experiment. One of the weaknesses was the sample. The results are not particularly generalisable because there were so few people being tested and all the participants were students aged between sixteen and eighteen, therefore not generalisable to the rest of the population. Students tend to be different from other people as they are generally used to remembering information and many have developed a good ability to do so, whereas much of the rest of the population are not used to doing such things and therefore may not be quite as adept at memorising. A second weakness is that the study is low in ecological validity. People do not often find themselves in situations where they have a set time to attempt to memorise words and then a set time to recall the remembered words. A further area of research could be to see if the amount of time given to memorise something affects how the efficiency recall. It is possible that having more time to memorise something would improve recall, and ultimately convert short-term memory into long-term memory. Joshua Kearsley ...read more.

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