Focusing on the above research into chunking of digits specifically, the aim of this investigation is to establish the effect of chunking in short-term memory. The above research was conducted over 30 year ago, doing this study will establish if the magic number seven plus or minus two applies to 16-17 psychology students; or maybe with technology we rely more on gadgets to store information for us and the active capacity of information might be decreasing as we could be sub-consciously chunking more nowadays with high usage of telephones and mobile phones.
Looking at research mainly by Jacobs (1887) and Miller (1956) the following hypotheses have been drawn up.
Significantly more digits will be recalled accurately in sequence in the chunked condition than in the un-chunked condition. Null Hypothesis There is no difference in the number of digits recalled in the chunked or un-chunked condition. Method Design The method used in this investigation was a laboratory method with repeated measures design. The independent variable was whether the digit sequence was continuous or chunked and the dependent variable was the number of correctly recalled digits in succession.
Many variables were controlled in this experiment, such as the use of standardised instructions. The experiment took place in the same psychology room with all windows shut to minimise the effect of external variables such as noise from traffic and school bell ringing. The study also took place at the same time on consecutive days, to ensure that concentration levels are the same, reducing the variable of tiredness and hunger.
As a control from distraction a notice on the door was put up saying ‘Experiment in process, do not enter’. All mobile phones were asked to be switched off at out of hands reach to minimise distraction. Communication between participants was prevented by explaining the importance of independent results at the beginning of the experiment.
To avoid any ethical issues all participants were debriefed at the end of the experiment and given the right to withdraw their results at any moment. All results were anonymous for confidentiality and participants gave consent to participate in the experiment. Participants 25 participants were used for this investigation, both male and female. The target population were 16-17 year old students from Cherwell School. An opportunity sample, two classes of en-rolling psychology students into sixth-form from the target population was used. Using repeated measured design means that participants do both condition. However, this creates a problem with order effect and boredom.
To overcome this effect counterbalancing is done. Counterbalancing uses the ABBA procedure; the participants are split into two groups by placing all names into a hat and randomly pulling out the first 12 names to form group one, this reduces the experiment effect. Group 1 do condition A followed by condition B; whilst group 2 do condition B followed by condition A. The researcher was an 18 year old sixth former student at Cherwell School.
The calculated value of T must be equal or less than the critical values to reach that level of significance. As 26 was less than both 68 and 49 this shows that my results were significant to a 99% level. I accepted the alternate hypothesis that significantly more digits would be recalled accurately in sequence in the chunked condition than in the un-chunked condition.
In this study, the results support the alternate hypothesis; ‘significantly more digits will be recalled in sequence in the chunked condition than in the un-chunked condition’. Participants performed better and got a higher score in the chunked condition of an average of 6.56 correct digits consecutively. However, looking at the raw data, the difference between the chunked and the un-chunked condition is very small. The average for the un-chunked condition is 4.92 (ï¿½5). Calculating the standard deviation allows one to see the spread of data about the mean. The un-chunked condition was calculated to have a slightly higher spread of data meaning that there was a bigger range of values.
Looking at the bar graph, it is clearly visible that chunking recall is better than un-chunked recall. Nevertheless, all results deviate around the 6 recalled digit mark. There is one anomaly, participant 13, scored highly in the un-chunked condition, scoring 9, whilst only scoring 6 in the chunked condition. This may have been for a number of reasons. If the participant was bored, the concentration levels may have dropped and no effort was put in; or, the participant found the task hard and needed a practise round, scoring highly the second time but with the different condition. As the results were anonymous it is impossible to identify the reason.
These findings relate to previous studies. Jacobs (1887) did a study with a serial digit span and he found that on average the digit span was 9.3 digits. Jacobs conducted his study on university students aged 20+; this supports Jacob’s theory that age plays a big role in recall. At the age of 16 people are still increasing their memory capacity and the means of organising information, chunking. These results do not fit Miller’s 72 theory. The 15 digit serial digit span was split into five chunks and had no semantic meaning. Participant on average recalled two chunks. Could it be that the time given for learning the sequence was too short, or having mobile phones to hold 11 digit numbers mean that we do not need to develop the skill of recalling a sequence of digits?
Wickelgren’s observation is valid and seen in this study. Most participants in the chunked condition recalled six digits, which is equivalent to two chunks; the second highest score was nine digits, three chunks, followed by five and seven digits. When recalling mobile phone numbers the 11 digits are split into two parts, the code and the number. The code always begins with 07 and is four digits long; the number is six digits long and usually split into two chunks. If the 15 digit sequence was split into two sequences of 6 digits, could participates recall more digits because they would see it as two separate numbers?
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