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Will participants have a better recall of words when they are presented in an organised list?

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Introduction

WILL PARTICIPANTS HAVE A BETTER RECALL OF WORDS WHEN THEY ARE PRESENTED IN AN ORGANISED LIST? ABSTRACT This experiment was carried out by three psychology students to investigate the role of organisation in memory and whether organisation of material helps memory recall. An opportunity sample of friends and relatives were asked to take part in the study. The sample comprised 34 participants aged between 16 and 60. There were two conditions and the participants were split equally between them. In Condition 1, participants studied a prepared organised list of words and in Condition 2 they studied a random list. Their memory was then tested by free recall. An independent design was used and the results analysed using the Mann-Whitney test. The results showed that organisation does play an important role in memory. Participants who studied the organised list of words recalled significantly more words then those who studied the random list. This supports the findings of other studies into the role of organisation in memory. BACKGROUND Memory is an essential part of the human make-up and without it society as we know it would not exist. Whilst there are still questions about how memories are created, stored and retrieved, it seems clear from studies that have been carried out that the more organised information is, the easier the recall is. Bousfield (1953) showed that even when words were presented in a random order, many participants use some form of categorisation in order to aid their recall. ...read more.

Middle

Copies of the word lists, instructions and de-brief can be found in the Appendices. A calculator was also used to undertake the later statistical analysis (see Appendix 4 for calculations). PARTICIPANTS A total of 34 participants were used, split between 3 experimenters. Each experimenter worked with an even number of participants to ensure equal numbers were used for each of the two conditions. Friends and family were most accessible to each of the experimenters and therefore Opportunity Sampling was used for the purposes of this study. It was agreed that the age parameters would be set between 16 and 60. It was also agreed that gender was unimportant for the purposes of this experiment. To decide which participants were placed into each group randomisation was used. This was undertaken by picking names out of a hat or using a shuffling process. PROCEDURE In order to test the hypotheses a list of 20 words was used, each word containing no more than 6 letters each. The organised list was separated into four categories with appropriate subject headings (see Appendix 1 for lists). The 34 participants were randomly allocated into two groups. To ensure that each participant was treated and tested in the same way the study was controlled within strict time parameters. To ensure that all participants received the same instructions, standardised ones were used (see Appendix 2) and read out to each of the participants. For Condition 1 each participant was required to study a prepared organised list of 20 words for exactly 1 minute. ...read more.

Conclusion

Allocating participants into groups should have been carried out in the same manner by each of the experimenters, and in future experiments perhaps the use of Random Number Tables would be more appropriate. Upon conducting the study it was also discovered that although the words had been shuffled on a computer to compile the 'random' list, the computer had placed them in alphabetical order which imposed some form of organisation onto the list which was pointed out by some of the participants. The randomisation of the words would have to be improved if further studies were undertaken. It had been decided for the purposes of this study that gender was not important. However, further studies could investigate whether there is a difference in memory recall between genders. The same study could be repeated but in this instance four Conditions would need to be satisfied: Condition 1 - female participants to study a prepared organised list of words; Condition 2 - female participants to study a prepared random list of words; Condition 3 - male participants to study a prepared random list of words; Condition 4 - male participants to study a prepared random list of words. This study also did not take into account any possible cultural variations. Investigations into memory are important in finding ways to help people learn, particularly in an educational or work environment. Teachers should use structures within their lessons and encourage students to attach meaning to what they are learning, so that later retrieval of the information will be easier. In addition, children and students should be encouraged to attach some of their own organisation when studying new subjects. ...read more.

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