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effects of chunking and unchunking on short term memory

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Introduction Memory is the ability to store and recall information which has either been experienced or learnt. There are two components, short-term and long-term memory. The nature of memory consists of duration (length of time), encoding (means of remembering) and capacity (amount of information stored). The nature of short-term memory is different from the nature of long-term memory. Short-term memory is the information which is immediately accessible or active. However, it has a limited duration time. Peterson and Peterson (1959) did a study using trigrams and found that duration lasted 18 seconds when recall was prohibited. Encoding in short-term memory is predominantly done acoustically, by sound, rather than visually, sight or semantically, meaning. Conrad (1964) conducted a study with acoustically similar and acoustically different letters; he concluded that similar letters such as 'B' and 'P' caused confusion in recall due to acoustic similarity. The capacity of information in short-term memory is also limited. The first systematic experiment on the short-term memory span was done by Jacobs (1887). The aim of the experiment was to see how much information could be stored in the short-term memory or active memory. The study consisted of using the serial digit span technique, using both letters and numbers; however, excluding 'w' and '7' because they contain two syllables. Jacobs found that on average the digit span (9.3) was greater than the letter span (7.3). His theory for this difference being that there are only 9 digits whereas there are 25 letters, consequently there would be less confusion between the digits. Another factor observed was that digit span increased with age, due to either, the increased brain capacity or to formed strategies to remember more material, such as chunking, reorganising information into smaller groups or clusters. ...read more.


* Once participants were seated consent forms should be handed out and collected with a signed signature. (see appendix for consent form) * The researcher began the presentation reading out loud all instructions and pausing for questions before beginning the study. (see appendix for standardised instructions) * Group One began with the un-chunked condition followed by three trivia questions to clear their minds. After the trivia questions the instructions were read out again and participants did the second condition, chunked sequence. * Stopped presentation on slide "Debrief" * As soon as the time was over results were collected in to minimise the chance of comparison of results and cheating. * Participants were debriefed and were given the right to withdraw their results. * The study was repeated on the following day with the second class of en-rolling psychology students. However, the presentation began on the second half, slide "Group 2". Participants began with the chunked condition, followed by three trivia questions and finished with the un-chunked condition. * Both groups were treated the same to decrease the effect of extraneous variables and to keep the experiment fair. Results Summary Bar Graph: Summary Tables of the data for Un-chunked and Chunked conditions are show above. The score was the number of consecutively correct digits recalled. If the participant didn't get the first digit in the sequence correct the participant scored Zero. The mean was calculated by adding all the scores in a condition e.g. Un-chunked and dividing the sum by the number of pieces of data, 25 pieces of data. Standard Deviation measures the spread of data about the mean, the bigger the value the more spread out the data. ...read more.


Participants aged 6-8 would require parental consent and it is predicted that the recall score would be lower than six digits in consecutive order. Participants aged 26-28 would be predicted to recall the whole digit sequence, up to 15 digits correctly consecutively to support Jacobs theory that active capacity increases with age due to developing means of chunking information. Another study that could be done is a follow up study on Wickelgren; by having a sequence of digits in different size chunks of two digits, three digits or four digits per chunks. Results should show that having three digits per chunk produce the best recall. A different study that would be interesting to follow up would be a study with mnemonics. Slak's study showed that by having a mnemonic which could be chunked, improved the digit recall. The study would be to see if digit recall would be as good when the number of digits in the sequence increased, consequently the number of chunks in the mnemonic. The participants IQ might have an impact on sequence recall. In conclusion, this investigation has found that 16-18 year olds on average recall six digits in the chunked condition, equivalent of two chunks. This research has proven that chunking does increase the capacity of short-term memory, even if it is only by a few more digits. In the real world this information could imply that 16-18 year olds are not very good at holding a vast amount of information in short-term memory, which could influence their learning skills if new material is not rehearsed. Another place where digit chunks are used is in restaurants - taking this investigations results suggests that a 16-18 year old would only be able to deal with two tables (two chunks) at a time (every table has a number). ...read more.

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