Does chunking information have a positive effect on people's short term memory?

Research title: Does chunking information have a positive effect on people’s short term memory?

Significance and Objectives

The aim of this project is to research the ‘chunking’ method. ‘Chunking’ is a strategy that is practiced by people on everyday basis around the world. It is mostly used in purpose to remember a lot of information such as numbers, letters, pictures or words for a very short amount of time; grouping of objects (chunking) lets people to do this. This method technique splits up information into chunks which makes people remember something easier.

‘Chunking’ is used to remember information which must be organised, but does not have any specific model. For example, mobile phone numbers are chunked and it is probably once seen as a number like 0773365000 and more often is revealed as 077-3365-00. Also, it is a very similar way with a food list, for example: beef, cucumber, paprika, potatoes and chicken. People can list them into special groups such as meat: beef, chicken; vegetables: cucumber, paprika, potatoes and it is a better way to remember what to buy in a store.

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This research is built on the question ‘Does chunking information have a positive effect on people’s short term memory?’ To find out information for this research project a shopping list will be presented to people, in Condition A which is non-chunked and Condition B which is chunked, to see which one will be memorised and recalled better in a very short time. This experiment allows to understand if chunking has a positive effect on STM.

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The most important thing of this research project was to discover if people can remember listed items, when they were chunked into groups, better than in a non-chunked way. The purpose of this research was to try it in a real life by using already done studies in previous years, because most of them highlighted that chunking does help to memorise information and improve people`s short term memory.

To carry out this lab experiment ten participants were using the opportunity of a sampling method. These experiment members were asked to note a shopping list in both ways: Condition A in a non-chunked way and Condition B in a chunked way. Then they had thirty seconds to memorize the list and thirty more seconds to write down what they have remembered for each condition on separate pieces of paper.

After all the results were calculated and analysed very carefully. The results showed that people were slightly better on memorising a chunked list. So, this answer is positive on a research question ‘if chunking information has an positive effect on people’s short term memory’. Also, it only confirms that people, who have done the same experiments, weren’t wrong on impact of short-term memory.


Chunking is the technique of which high flow of information is grouped into much smaller chunks of information making more workable use of short term memory. It could be done with mobile phone numbers, academic information, medicine lists and everything else. (, 2015)

“Working memory task performance and chunking in early Alzheimer’s disease” research was carried out in 2011 by Johnathan Huntley. This case aims were to study if chunking technique could improve memory for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease and for members of an elderly age without cognitive impairments.

Twenty-eight people with mild Alzheimer’s were chosen for the research. This group was split into mild and very mild Alzheimer’s disease according to Mini – Mental State Examination scores. The other group of fifteen elderly people also was a part of the research. During the study all participants performed digit and spatial working memory tasks which required structured sequences, encouraged the chunking of information, or even unstructured sequences to be recalled.

Huntley’s method results showed that all experiment members performed certainly better on structured trials of the digit working memory tasks, illustrating prosperous use of chunking technique to boost a working memory achievement. Moreover, elderly people and very mild Alzheimer’s groups were better on structured trials of the spatial task than those with mild disease, which results showed that there is no any difference between the structured and unstructured spatial conditions.

He made conclusion that using chunking strategy could be beneficial therapeutically to protract working memory functionality on patients at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. (BJPsych, 2011)

The study was accomplished in a laboratory,artificial setting which means that it has a low ecological validity, where it had a good control over confounding variables which makes possibility to repeat it in the future studies. Also, that can imply growing research reliability. Furthermore, the study was done in 2011, less than twenty years ago and because of that it has a high time validity and scientists can apply it to nowadays society. But this studies include low population validity, what is applying it to other groups (countries for example), and this study cannot be applied to a wider population, because it was concentrated on people with Alzheimer’s disease.

It is not a surprise that some ethical issues can be found. For example, some people may have not been asked for an agreement to be a part of this research. Moreover, as it was mentioned above, the research was specified on Alzheimer’s, and some people may have had this disease for a longer time than others and this possibility could affect the results. This means that some of the participants could have a better memory than others, so there was a possibility for them to make their results better. Also, all these people were split by their disease stage, but the groups weren’t matched by IQ levels.

The other researcher Miller (1956) also made a study on a short-term memory. His aim was to identify the quantity of information which can be supported in a short-term memory. The method was to examine members in short-term memory by revealing how many chunks of specific information they can memorise and then recall it after a very short time. His results exposed that people can remember mostly 7 (+-2) items in a short-term memory. So, conclusion which he made was that people can remember more information if it would be chunked/grouped. (Aabdilahi, 2014)

Differently from Huntley’s, Miller’s study has a low time validity, which means that research was done more than twenty years ago, in 1956, so there would be a question if this study results are suitable for nowadays society. Also, it has high population validity because it was not specifically looked at some kind of people’s group and it is not hard to generalise findings to wider population. Furthermore, Miller didn’t mention how large chunks of information should be, so today exact capacity of people`s short-term memory is unknown. Miller didn’t say anything about other factors that can affect capacity too, let`s say, age, IQ or anything else. (Sparks, 2018)


The aim of this research project is to find out if experiment participants can remember more items on the list in a chunked way than in a non-chunked way. This will allow to understand if chunking has a positive effect on people’s short-term memory, just like Miller’s (1956) or Huntley’s (2011) results because both are in agreement with one another and say that chunking does improve recalling and one tailed hypothesis is predicted.


Null Hypothesis: There will be no significant difference in the number of information which will be recalled between chunked and non-chunked items.

One-tailed Hypothesis: Participants will get better results (remember more items) after seeing a chunked list than recalling a non-chunked list items.

Methodology of research project


This research project is a lab experiment. It aims to see in which way chunked or non-chunked information is more positively affected on short-term memory by remembering a shop list in both ways. This research uses repeated measures design. So, this means that repeated measures design, also known as within-subjects design, uses the same subjects with every condition of the research, including the control. (Lumencandela, 2018) Moreover, it has some advantages and disadvantages, for example, one of the strengths is the participants who are the same in both conditions, which says that less people are needed for whole experiment. But disadvantage is order effect, when people can get better results on the second condition because they can remember items from the first list or, on the other hand, might be worse in the second and the reason of this could be that they are tired after the first round. This will be counterbalanced by leaving a gap of sixty seconds between condition A and condition B. (McLeod,2017) Results will be calculated by using standard deviation formula.

As this is a laboratory experiment, it has control over confounding variables, for example, light, noise, temperature, which make the reliability of the whole experiment grow as distractions can be filtered out. Also, this project includes two types of variables: dependent and independent. The independent type is controlled by a researcher (chunked or non-chunked information) and the other one, the dependent type is what is being checked and measured in this experiment (Todd Helmestine, 2018).

The experiment must be planned very carefully to avoid numbers of ethical issues in this case. First of all, participants MUST give a permission to be a member of an experiment. So, all participants will get a consent letter and a brief in which they will see what this study is about. If people agree with it, they will give permission by signature before the next step. After this, when participants have a clue what it is all about, they will be given standardised instructions by which they can understand an experiment process. Also, there can be concealed points of experiment which would mean that a researcher doesn’t reveal something to his participants. In this study participants will not know the items on the list and how they are grouped into chunks. After everything, participants must be debriefed. Which means, that it must explained clearly what kind of experiment was without any concealments.


The participants who will be involved in this case are ten adults from The City of Liverpool College. This study will use a opportunity sampling because it is quite easy and quick to carry out. Also, it is cheaper and does not require any special planning and often participants are ready and available at the same time. This one is chosen because random and systematic way takes much longer time and cannot guarantee to be representative.

Researcher: Goda Zadeikyte

Participants: Ten adult students at The City of Liverpool College

Supervisor: Helen Aucutt


  • An empty classroom
  • A paper with Condition A
  • A paper with Condition B
  • Stopwatch
  • Chart for results
  • Consent letter and brief
  • Standardised instructions
  • Debrief
  • Pen + paper


  • Participants were given a consent letter and a brief by which they can know about study.
  • Participants are introduced to standardised instructions.
  • After reading, participants were asked if they wanted to continue.
  • A blank piece of paper and ‘Condition A’ was given to a participant. The thirty seconds were set on a stopwatch and he/she was told to memorise as many as possible items on a non-chunked list.
  • Once thirty seconds were up, a participant was asked to write down what he/she remembered from list.
  • ‘Condition A’ and the piece of paper with a result were taken and participants got a new piece of paper with ‘Condition B’. Again they were asked to memorise the items on a chunked list. Thirty seconds were given.
  • After this time an examined person was asked to write down what could remember within thirty seconds from ‘Condition B’ list.
  • ‘Condition B’ and a paper were taken and a researcher recorded the results on ‘Tally chart’.
  • Participant was presented with a debriefed.



After calculating the mean, median, mode, range and standard deviation it was selected to use the mean as this establishes the most precise average results, otherwise between mean there is bigger difference, and it leaves an easier choice to decide which hypothesis was correct by using the mean. The mean for non-chunked was 6, meanwhile the mean for chunked was 7.2. This allows to see that there is not very big, but still a difference and this experiment supports Miller’s (1956) and Huntley`s (2011) results. However, if there would be a need to make a choice by standard deviation it would have been lower.


The results of the research project have answered to the main research project question ‘Does chunking have a positive effect on people’s short-term memory?’ The answer to this is ‘yes’, it has a positive effect on people’s short-term memory. What is more, the correct hypothesis was one-tailed, while null hypothesis doesn’t improve its right. The results fully supported both scientists` theories and demonstrated that chunked information can help to memorize easier what you need in everyday life, including shopping items, medicines, birthday dates, numbers.

Research project purpose was to find out if chunking can improve person’s short-term memory by using basic shopping list to test. The results with previous experiments came quite similar with the same outcome, which makes it more reliable. All studies took place in the lab, which means that it has low ecological validity, but also has good control over confounding variables, by which the tests could be replicated and makes reliability grow. One more similarity is that they all have low population validity and results cannot be applied to wider population. Also numbers of participants in experiment was different. So, Miller in his case used numbers and words, Huntley used Alzheimer’s patients, in this research were used shopping list. So, this method shows that chunking advantages can be effectively improved.

Also, there are some changes that could be made to increase the reliability and validity of the results. Even opportunity of sampling and this is mentioned because participants knew they would be a part of an experiment and they were ready, as they knew what this was about, they knew about conditions, chunked and non-chunked lists. A method was used among the classmates, participants could be changed picking random people who were allowed to take part in it, the result generalises the experiment to a wider population and by that it increases population validity. Also, order effect can switch results by not allowing participants to participate in every condition, because they could remember the information.(NLPworld,2018) Therefore, in next research would be used random sampling and one condition only for a person.

If this area would be studied again, probably everything will be the same, except this time would be case on recorded sounds and choosing random sampling method. This would make the project more interesting, which would allow to apply wider population, avoid order effects, because it would be done once. To summarise, this research project improved, that chunking could help people to remember more information which needed on daily basis.

Goda Zadeikyte

Words: 2498

Cite this page

Does chunking information have a positive effect on people's short term memory?. (2019, Dec 02). Retrieved from

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