The Effect of Semantic Organisation of Information on Recall in the Short Term Memory

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The Effect of Semantic Organisation of Information on Recall in the Short Term Memory




The experiment contained within this coursework is a replication of the experiment conducted by Bower et al (1969). Subjects were recruited by the experimentors and asked to take part in a psychological study. They were given standardised instructions, stimuli and debriefing. The experiment itself was to test the level of recall of the subjects who were split into two groups randomly and one of two stimuli depending upon which group they were in. One group had an organised list of words and one had an unorganised list of words. The point of the experiment being that it is believed that the group that learnt the organised list of words should have a higher level of recall than the other group.

This coursework is going to use the principles of cognitive psychology. These are that it is possible to explain behaviour by referring to mental processes such as memory, even though these processes cannot be observed directly. Mental processes are presumed to process information in the same way that a computer does.

I am going to conduct a lab experiment to investigate into memory. There are two types of memory, long and short term. Short term memory is where information that we are currently concentrating on is stored. Eysenck (19980 says that short term memory contains information in the psychological present. Long term memory, by contrast, contains information that we have stored but are not currently thinking about.

The Multi-Store model of memory shows the relationship between long and short term memory.

Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968)

Sensory stores attention Short term store rehearsal Long term store

decay displacement interference

However, what happens when we want to remember something? Sometimes there are failures in the mechanisms of storage or retrieval. This leads to one forgetting information. I am going to concentrate on retrieval and how organisation of information can affect it.

Tulving and Pearlstone (1966) did an experiment on free recall. They showed that when subjects are asked to memorise long lists if words, they tended to remember four times as many words when they were given cues. The same effect occurs, but not as great when the lists are organised. This is because organisation acts as a cue in retrieval.

Human memory is highly organised. The more organised information is the more likely we are to remember it. In a way, similar to Tulving and Pearlstone's experiment, when subjects are given categorized word lists in a random order and tested in free recall, the almost invariable result is that words are recalled category by category. This phenomenon is known as categorical clustering. This demonstrates the way in which information is structured and organised by the knowledge stored in the long term memory.
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Bower et al (1969) conducted an experiment to see whether organisation would affect recall in the short term memory. Bower presented subjects with either an organised word list or the same list randomised. To ensure that the subjects were using short term memory, a distraction task was given. The distraction task prevents rehearsal of the information taking place and so the information remains in the short term memory. In a test of free recall, the results showed that the subjects recall from the organised list was greater than that of the randomised list.


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