Science Project:

Short Term Memory

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The purpose of this experiment is to determine how many things a person can hold in their short term or active memory at once.

  • What is the difference between short term and long term memory?
  • Are short term and long term memories stored in different places in the brain?
  • What is the role of the working memory?
  • What tools do people use to increase the capacity and duration of the short term memory?
  • How do people use chunking to increase the efficiency of the short term memory?

The process of transferring information from the short term to the long term memory is a complicated one. Often, this transfer takes multiple attempts and requires a significant amount of concentration and attention. Though many students studying for a test will devote considerable time and energy to memorizing new information, some students choose to “cram” for a test at the last minute. While this make help in rare cases, the majority of people cannot transfer information from their short term memory to their long term memory quickly. Furthermore, most people can only hold between five and nine bits of information in their short term memory, which leaves room for only a few key terms or equations right before the test. Studying the efficiency of short term memory can help us learn what the limitations of this form of memory are and also how to overcome those limitations.

  • 20 or more subjects
  • Displays with 20 numbers, letters, or objects printed on them
  • Pencils
  • Paper

:

  1. Find a number of people willing to participate in your study.
  2. Have your subjects sit down in desks.
  3. Have your subjects record their age, gender and any other information you wish to collect on their paper. It is not necessary to collect the names of your subjects.
  4. Explain the process of the study to your subjects. Tell them that they will be shown a series of numbers, letters and pictures and that they are to list as many of these as they can. Tell them not to make guesses, but to only list the things they remember.
  5. Display a list of numbers, such as the one below. You can use an overhead projector, an Elmo or even a piece of poster board.
  6. Leave the numbers up for 10 seconds.
  7. Have your subjects record as many as they can remember.
  8. Give your subjects a one minute break to clear their memories.
  9. Display a list of letters, such as the one below. You can use an overhead projector, an Elmo or even a piece of poster board.
  10. Leave the letters up for 10 seconds.
  11. Have your subjects record as many as they can remember.
  12. Give your subjects a one minute break to clear their memories.
  13. Display a series of simple pictures of common objects. Clip art is acceptable. You can use an overhead projector, an Elmo or even a piece of poster board.
  14. Leave the pictures up for 10 seconds.
  15. Have your subjects record as many as they can remember. They can use a word or two to describe the pictures they remember.
  16. Give your subjects a one minute break to clear their memories.
  17. Collect the papers from your subjects and compare the results.
Numbers

7 19 86 3 55 17 43 26 97 11 2 74 56 93 12 84 33 1 19 52

Letters

P L F E T U B W M X Z Q K O S R C N B D

Terms/Concepts: Short term memory; Long term memory; Active memory; Working memory; Phonological loop; Visuospacial sketchpad; Visual short term memory; Memory span; Chunking

References:

Author: Crystal Beran
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