How levels of processing affects memory

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Name: Carl Hurst         Candidate No.: 3038        Centre No.: 13327

          An Investigation into How Levels of Processing Affects Memory


The experiment is based on the research by Craik & Lockhart’s levels of processing theory, which says that deeper levels of processing will help memory more than shallow levels. The aim was to find out whether categorised word lists improve recall rather than the same words in a random order. My hypothesis is that more words would be recalled from the categorised wordlist than the uncategorised wordlist. The sampling method was opportunity sampling and the first 10 students found in the PE department were selected and I used independent groups for my design. The experiment happened in a laboratory and the participants were briefed on the experiment and the ethical issues involved were mentioned. One of them was given a wordlists and a stopwatch was used to give them 20 seconds to memorise and then 20 seconds to recall as many words as possible, which I ticked on a checklist. The results were then put into a graph.  They showed that 60% of participants recalled over half the words on the categorised wordlist and only 20% recalled more than half of the uncategorised wordlist. This shows that deeper levels of processing are used when remembering words from a categorised wordlist compared to an uncategorised wordlist.


Aim: to find out whether memorising words from a categorised word lists would help recall more words than memorising the same words but in a random order.

Background Material

A pilot study was carried out on two sixth form students at my school. One memorised the categorised words, and the other memorised the random words. They both recalled 8 out of 16 words. As a result of their feedback the amount of time to memorise the list increased to 20 seconds and the amount of time to recall the list increased to 20 seconds, rather than 10 seconds.

The theory involved in this experiment is the levels of processing theory. It states that if high levels of processing are used to memorise words then more words should be remembered than if the level of processing was low.

Craik and Lockhart (1972) were the first to propose that the attentional and perceptual processes during learning determine what information is stored in long-term memory.

There are different levels of processing which  are shallow or pereceptual processing and semantic or deeper processing.

Perceptual- is detecting specific letters in words

Semantic- deeper levels of analysis produce more elaborate, longer lasting, and stronger memory traces than do shallow levels of analysis.

Hyde and Jenkins (1973) found that deeper procesing lead to better recall (more words being remembred) than shallow processing. Making judgements on whether or not leters are upper or lower case is an example of shallow processing in that only superficial infomration about the words is procesed, whereas making judgements about wheter or not a word associates with another word is deep and so deep levels of processing is required.

Now that I have learned about Craik and Lockhart’s levels of processing theory I will now come up with a hypothesis for my coursework, based on their research.

Hypothesis: The amount of words recalled from the categorised word list will be higher than the amount of words recalled from the random list; this is because organised words will be processed at a deeper level as the words will easily be associated with each other, whereas the non-organised word lists will be processed at a shallow level.

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For this experiment a laboratory experiment was chosen. This is a type of experiment that is conducted in a well-controlled environment. All the participants took part in the experiment in the same room, which was a biology classroom. This meant that noise levels lighting and other extraneous variables would be the same.

The independent variables in the experiment are wordlists as there will be two different ones that will affect the dependent variable, which is the amount of words recalled. The independent variables are the categorised and non-categorised word lists. The extraneous variables are background ...

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