Science Project:

How Do You Remember?

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Students may ask themselves questions such as: do we remember what we understand? Do we understand only when we pay attention? Do we pay attention only to what we want? Experience arouses emotion, emotion fixes attention. Attention leads to understanding and insight, which results in memory.

In this project, the student will sample two age groups: high school classmates, and the student's own parents. Within the framework of current findings on memory, the question being addressed and applied to two generations is the following: What kinds of memories do we tend to store? Does an incident or experience have to have a strong emotional component in order to be placed and retained as a part of long term memory? Does it have to be viewed by the subject as very good, very bad, very sad or traumatic? In brief, do we tend to remember unremarkable things or, as stated above, do we require an emotional component for an experience to become part of our long term memory?

Experimental Procedure

  1. Gather the materials you will need for your project. Reproduce copies of the Student Response Sheet and the Summary Data Chart.
  2. Formulate your hypothesis. Do you think that all of the memory responses, those of student and their parents, will have a strong emotional component? Which group will appear to recall more details? Fewer details?How do you account for the results you have obtained?
  3. Select 6 students and 6 parents who will serve as the subjects of your study. The number you choose is up to you. The larger the number of subjects, the better the resulting study.
  4. Allocate one hour for studying each group. Their task is to respond to the questions on the interview. Your task is to tape record their responses. Ask each participant to identify his or herself by name, and his or her status as student or parent. Then, ask your participant to mention the specific question they are addressing. As they proceed, they are to check off the questions answered. If they have any questions during the procedure they have just to raise their hand and motion to you.
  5. After one hour, collect the tapes. Analyze all of the tapes and record the responses in the data chart.
  6. Check your hypothesis. Were you on target?Formulate your conclusions and write up your report. Include your bibliography. You may wish to include some of the feedback you received from your subject. You may also wish to share the results with all of your subjects in appreciation for their participation.

Data Summary Chart

Subjects

Emotional Word Association

Non-Emotional Word Association

Memories Very Good

Memories Very Bad

Memories Very Sad

Memories Traumatic

Memories Ordinary

Student

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

Parents

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

Summary of Subjects Self Assessments &Reactions

Subjects

Personality Assessments

Reactions to Project

Students

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

Parents

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

Terms/Concepts: memory, short term memory, long term memory, persistence of memory, cerebral cortex, declarative memories, episodic memories, incidental memory, semantic memory

References: Howard, Pierce, The Owner's Manual for The Brain, A Bard Press Book, Austin, Texas, 2006

Author: Muriel Gerhard
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