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Retaining Information

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Author: Muriel Gerhard

Grade Level: 9th - 10th; Type: Biology/Neurosciences

Objective:

To investigate ones memory of colors, words, words in phrases, pictures and numbers and determine at what level, elementary, middle or high school is the retention rate in each category the best.

Research Questions:

  • What is memory?
  • What is short time memory?
  • What is long time memory?
  • What is sensory memory?
  • How are memories formed?
  • What part or parts of the brain store memories?
  • What are mental maps? 
  • What are retrieval cues and how can they be used?
  • What is interference?
  • How do we forget?
  • Is age a factor in memory?
  • How may the power of suggestion influence research results?

On the information level, the student will become acquainted with the current research on memory and the studies conducted in terms of the various kinds of materials we gather and place into short term memory and the facility with which we retrieve this information, be it pictorial, verbal, numerical or in technicolor.

The questions beings asked and investigated include: Are some types of information more readily accepted and retained as we move through the grades and as we acquire more data?  Do the   characteristics of the materials impact on their retention? Is age a key variable in the process? Namely do the responses vary considerably when comparisons are made among elementary, middle and high school students? Does memory grow and improve? Does it grow like a muscle due to use? Does it deteriorate due to age or lack of use? Of what practical value are the answers to these questions?

As for the methodology of this project, this science fair project also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing, of researching techniques and learning about the importance of identifying dependent and independent variables, of proper and accurate data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings. They become aware of the importance of the size of the sample population and whether the sample was truly representative of the group they are investigating. They learn about what researchers do and begin to replicate the process.   In the process of researching, they become potential researchers.

Materials:

  • Flash cards
  • Magic markers
  • Old magazines
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Paste

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Gather all the materials that you will need for this project. These include cards to be made into flash cards, magic markers of different colors, and pictures from newspapers or magazines, paste, scotch tape, and a stop watch.
  2. You will prepare a series of cards to be used as flash cards. Each set of five cards will be made for each category. For the first, Color Cards, place one color on the first card, two colors on the second, three on the third and so on. For the five word cards, follow the same idea, place one word on the first card, two on the second, three on the third etc. Select words which one can associate with each other. For example, card #1 may be house, card #2 may be tree, lawn, card#3 may have, car, speed, red , card #4, may have pants, boots, exercise, black and card #5may have school, holiday, soccer, blue, candy. It will be interesting if your subjects string the words together to make sentences and pictures in their minds as a way of remembering. Do not mention that to them! Just watch to see if they do it!
  3. Your next set of cards is words in phrases. Again construct five cards each with what you view as a common phrase. Some suggestion are cut and run, a pot of gold, food for thought, as nutty as a fruit cake, follow the yellow brick road, anchors away etc. I think you have the idea.
  4. Your next set of cards is numbers. Start with something like  2, 4, 6, 8, 10 on card #1 then go on to 3, 6 ,9, 12,15,,18on card #2 then make it more difficult on card #3,  4,8, 16, 32, 64, 128 progress to card #4, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 1,2345and finally card 5, 10, 15, 25, 40, 65.
  5. You will now select pictures for each of your five cards. This is an opportunity to be creative. Cut out items from newspapers and magazines and combine the items as you see fit. Inside your heard try to construct a story you would tell if you used these pictures or a comic strip you would design.
  6. Copy the Response Sheet and the Data Chart provided below to be used for you and your subjects to record the initial data and to summarize all of your data.
  7. Obtain six subjects, two from each level, elementary, glade 5, middle, school grade 8 and high school grade11. Describe the purpose of thiexperiement. Distribute the response sheet. The subject s will be exposed to each set of cards. They will be given10 seconds to observe each of the cards that you show them and then 30 seconds to record eachansweon the response sheet. They will observe and record and then move on to the next card.  Explain that they are to do the best that they can. There are no grades.
  8. Administer the tests. Ask the participants to note any reactions that they had to the test.
  9. After the tests ask the participants to their reactions. Did they use any tricks or ways to remember the items?
  10. Analalyze the results and record them on the data chart.
  11. Write up your report. Include all of the arm chair research as well as your bibliography. You may wish to include your reactions to this project. Were you to receive a grant to do further research on remembering and forgetting, what would you propose?    

Student Response Sheet 

Name:

Grade:

Age:

Trials

Color

Words

Phrases

Numbers

Pictures

#1

 

 

 

 

 

#2

 

 

 

 

 

#3

 

 

 

 

 

#4

 

 

 

 

 

#5
 
 
 
 
 
 

 Summary Data Chart

    Subjects                                        

Colors

Words

Phrases

Numbers

Pictures

EL #1

 

 

 

 

 

EL #2

 

 

 

 

 

Average

 

 

 

 

 

MS #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

MS #2

 

 

 

 

 

Average

 

 

 

 

 

HS #1

 

 

 

 

 

HS #2

 

 

 

 

 

Average

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terms/Concepts: Memory; Short term memory; Long term memory; Sensory memory; Mental maps; Retreival cues; Forgetting; Interference; The power of suggestion

References:

  • Loftus, Elizabeth, Memory, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts 1980
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