Memory levels of processing

An experimental investigation took place in order to test the hypothesis, that there will be a higher score in words that have been associated with meaning rather than with a matched rhyming words. The aim of the investigation was to find out whether semantically characteristic words are easier to recall than words that rhyme. For this to be investigated, a list of 26 words were given to the participant to convert into words that had a meaning or a rhyming word. The participants then had to recall the original words. Then the participants were given the new words as a trigger to help recall.

It was found that semantic words had a higher score of recall compared to rhyming words. A paired t test was calculated and was found to be significant with p<0.05 and P<0.01. The experiment also discovered that levels of processing took a significant part in explaining why semantic words were easier to recall. Introduction Memory is one of the most vital parts of human survival, without it we would merely exist for a few hours. We underestimate the demands that we put on our memory, the over usage that occurs through both Short Term Memory and Long Term Memory. Our memory is working constantly, for short term it could be remembering what has just been said to us, or paying for something in a shop, remembering how much an item costs. For Long Term memory an example is in an examination, we remember facts that have been stored in long term memory, similarly knowing a telephone number all exist in Long term memory stores. (Radford & Govier, 1991)

There are a variety of different explanations in order to explain where the memories are stored, and how they are stored, for both short term and long term memory. This practical report is looking at the different ways in which memories are processed, and which appears to be the more successful, either rhyming words or words that have associated meanings. To explore this, there have been many psychologists who have explained the process in which our memories take in both short term and long term. One of these explanations was by Baddely and Hitch, 1974 (as cited in Groome, 1999) who emphasized the idea that the memory was a Working Memory which meant that the memory was in fact a place for processing information and analysis in the brain.

They also discovered that there were different compartments in the brain for different sensory modalities (Groome, 1999). This particular Working Memory Model contained a central executive, which was a link to the Short-term stores, the “phonological loop”. The Phonological loop, is the place where auditory and speech based information is processed to and opposing this is “Visuo-spatial Sketchpad” which hold visual information. In relation to the investigation of whether words are recalled better if they rhyme or are meaning based they would have to go through the process of the phonological loop.

Psychologist study word lists in order to receive information about the memory; this is due to the idea that words contain coding information and also help to comprehend if they have a stimuli. Words can be coded in different ways such as, orthographically which is thought of as the visual characteristics. Phonologically, which is the sound that the word makes and finally semantically, which is the meaning of the word (Parkin, 2000). In the investigation semantic and phonological words are concentrated on, and is investigated which one is easier to be remembered. Craik and Lockhart,1972, can explain this using the Levels of Processing Theory. The basis of this theory is believed to be about the perception of the stimulus, whether it ranged from a “shallow” or “deep” process. The concept is largely proposed on the verbal memory, where orthographic characteristics are associated with the shallow process and semantic as a deeper process, whilst phonological features fall in the middle, nevertheless it was found that the stimuli were processed in separate processing domains. (Craik and Tulving 1975, cited in Parkin, 2000)

The main theory behind Craik and Lockhart’s Levels of Processing theory relies on the retention of a memory trace, is depended on the depth of which it has been processed during the encoding stage. (Groome, 1999) Experiments of the orienting tasks, which involve asking a participant to pay particular notice to one stimuli, for example taking the word “sky” and asking to note a word that rhymes with it, has been found to make a significant difference when then challenged to take an unexpected memory task, Craik 1977 (cited in Parkin 1975). These results were astonishing as retrieval levels were much higher for semantic words, than structural, there was almost a forty percent difference in scores.

Other experiments have taken place in order to give support to the Levels of Processing theory, Winograd, 1976 (cited in Groome, 1999), conducted an experiment on face recognition scores. The scored remained higher if reported to have a pleasantness of the face rather than a more superficial structure feature, for example curly hair. Aim The aim of the investigation is to find out whether semantically characteristic words are easier to recall than words that rhyme. Hypothesis The Hypothesis of this investigation will be that, there will be a higher score in words that have been associated with meaning rather than with a matched rhyming words.

Method Design. The experimental investigation took place in a lab, with a related design. This meant we used the same participants to test all the conditions. This meant we used repeated measures. This meant that it eliminated individual differences and each participant was able to produce scores for both conditions. The two conditions of the experiment were recall and then triggers to help with recall. The independent variable was whether or not the word was to be used as a semantic word or a rhyming word. The dependant variable was the recall.

The experiment was set in a quiet area with minimal distractions, due to the importance of concentration. Participants. Overall there were thirty-five participants however only fourteen of these were used in the final calculation of the results. This was due to the fact that during the experiment there was a rating scale of how surprised the participants were that the next task was to recall the words. The participants that answered that they were highly surprised were used for the results section. This was enable to ensure that they were following the experiment truly, i.e. they would have just done that task as instructed and not memorised the words that were originally there.

The participants were undergraduate students studying at MMU, on a combined course of Psychology and another subject. The class had a range of ages, the lowest being 18, and also mixed genders however there were more females to male participants. Apparatus and Material There were minimal apparatus and material used in this investigation. The experimenter had the question sheet (appendix 1), which contained the instructions for the participant, along with a list of 26 words with the letter ‘R’ or ‘M’ next to it. Both the experimenter and participant were required to have a pen.


The experimenter took the participant to a quiet area where the investigation could take place. He then handed the instructions and list of words to the participant to read and then comply. The Participant had to read each word and if the word had a ‘R’ next to it then he would have to write a word that rhymed with the word given, similarly if the word had a ‘M’ next to it then they had to think of a word that had the same meaning as the given word. Once this part of the task was finished, the participant was asked to turn the page. On this page there were two questions with a rating scale, asking how surprised they were on now having to recall the original words and which task did they find easier the ‘M’ or the ‘R’? The participants now had to recall as many original words as they could. Once finished they passed the sheet back to the experimenter, who briefly looked at the results.

The experimenter had been told previously told not to include the two first words on the list and the two end words on the list when taking part in the next section. The experimenter taking this into account, gave the word that the participant had thought off originally, for the first three ‘M’ words on the list and the first three ‘R’ words that had not been recalled in the previous recall session. Having these six trigger words the participant was given back the sheet and asked to recall any more words that they could think of having now been given a clue to the original words. These were then calculated by the experimenter, and the participant was thanked for their participation in the investigation. The results were then tabled up in a raw data table (appendix 2).


The results from the recall and questions in-between were recorded and put into a table of results. These were then organized to use the most suitable data. This was found to use only fourteen participants, this was filtered out using the rating scale of surprise, as we needed the results to be genuine recall (Table 1) In this table were the amount of ‘M’ words recalled and amount of ‘R’ words recalled. Along with the surprise rating and the word that was thought to be found easier to recall. Then there are the second recall scores, which were helped by the trigger words. The final column in the table is the advantage that the ‘M’ scores have over the ‘R’ scores.

Then it was essential to calculate the means of the advantage that ‘M’ had over ‘R’. It was found that the mean for the first recall was 1.64 whereas the mean for the second recall was 1.36. This suggests there …

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