The aim of this experiment was to try to establish whether participants would show better memory recall when asked to remember words presented in either a hierarchical or random format. This is called a two-tailed hypothesis. The null hypothesis will be that there would be no significant difference in the number of words recalled between the two conditions. Any difference would be due to chance. There were 24 participants, 12 female and 12 male.
They were from varied backgrounds, with ages ranging between 16 and 75 years old. An independent measures design was used. One control group was exposed to a list of hierarchical words, the other exposed to a list of random words. All participants were allowed the same exposure time to learn and then recall the words. The results were analysed using the Mann – Whitney Chi-Square analysis test and showed no significant difference in memory recall therefore we rejected the two-tailed hypothesis.
Memory can be thought of as the ability to retain information and demonstrate retention through behaviour. People have the capability to store vast amounts of information. This information has to be accessed quickly and easily. To this end the information must be highly organised allowing retrieval of the appropriate information when required. When investigating memory organisation is a key factor. Organisation determines the way the information has been encoded into memory, and the way knowledge is organised will determine the effectiveness of the memory. Without organisation the speed at which information is recalled from the memory would be considerably slower.
Memory is a store for information. This information needs to be encoded, retained and retrieved when required. There has been a great deal of research into the different types of memory. It is widely accepted that memory is categorised into 3 basic components, sensory memory (SM), short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM). William James (1890) was one of the first psychologists to define distinction between primary (short-term) and secondary memory (long-term). It is believed that STM has a duration ranging between 15 to 30 seconds. With rehearsal it is possible to extend this, however, the capacity will always be limited. Miller (1956) believed the STM has the capacity for seven slots of information (+ /- 2).
LTM is the principal encoding method, it is considered to be semantic and its capacity unlimited. The duration can be a few minutes or a lifetime. Atkinson and Shiffron (1968) extended James’s study and came up with the very influential multi store model. They suggested a sensory memory referring to sensory information from the environment. Data enters the sensory store, the information we pay attention to enters the LTM, but if rehearsal is not maintained then it will be lost. Craik and Lockhart (1972) argued that any item entering the memory system is analysed in stages.
They believed that the kind of rehearsal is more important than the amount. The levels can be shallow (processing appearance), phonemic (processing sound) or semantic (processing meaning). The semantic level allows for more elaboration in the encoding. Craik and Lockhart defined depth in terms of a continuum: an example of shallow processing would be to say whether a word was written in capitals, whereas deep processing would say if the word would fit in to any given sentence (semantic processing). According to Craik and Lockhart’s theory, the difference between each level of processing is the amount of cognitive effort we use on memorising something. The cognitive effort is essentially the effort made in relating new information to old. The better we organise new material by relating to existing knowledge, the better it will be retained.
Murdock (1962) explored the “primacy and regency effect.” This is when participants recalled words remembering earlier and later items but tended to forget the words in the middle of the list. Glanzer and Cunitz (1966) backed this up but also suggested that our memory is split into different departments. Paivio (1969) suggested the most powerful influence on recall of words is how easily they can invoke a mental image. He proposed a dual – coding theory to account for the effects of images on verbal learning. So does the brain have a filing cabinet like system that attempts to sort out into hierarchies or categories of knowledge? Collins and Quillian (1969,1972) devised the hierarchical network model of semantic memory. This is concerned with our memory for words and their meanings.
This report is a scaled mimic by the work of Bower et al (1969). He presented two groups of participants with identical sets of words to learn. One group had organised words by conceptual hierarchy, the other group’s words were random. Bower demonstrated that there would be higher recall when words were arranged in a conceptual hierarchical form. He claimed that recall was improved because of word association and the recognition of them being on the response sheet. With the random word list, participants could not establish a similar rule to help them generate words.