Psychology: stored. However, Miller did not say how much

Research Methods



“Familiar one syllable words will be recalled
more successfully than trigrams”

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Memory is the storage of information
from our past and current experiences and retrieval of that
 information in the present time. Memory
is an important aspect of human cognition. We could not learn new tasks,
languages, or plan things to do in the future or even remember what we did the
day before. Essentially without memory we would struggle to learn anything new.
Memory processes all the different stimulus in our surrounding environment,
most notably images, sounds and the meanings of things (Cited in  There are three stages of memory in
psychology and the first stage is Encoding. When information is first collected
from a stimulus it can be overwhelming for our system. Therefore, when the
information first enters our memory system (via sensory input) our brain needs
to decode this information into something more palatable for our memory system.
There are three ways information can be encoded;

§  Visual

§  Acoustic

§  Sematic

Revising for an exam as an example.
Would you remember what your read in a text book by “seeing” it in your mind or
by repeating it aloud? By repeating aloud, it is acoustic as you are recalling
via sound. By visualising it, it is visual as you are remembering it as an
Second phase is memory storage; where the memory is stored and its duration of
being stored. For short term memory most adults can store between 5 and 9
Miller (1956) ( )
suggested the idea of the magic number seven, which he thought that the
capacity of short-term memory was 7 (plus or subtract 2) items as it only had a
set number of slots where items could be stored.
However, Miller did not say how much could be stored in these slots.
Long Term Memory on the other hand is suggested to be unlimited in its
Memory Retrieval is the third phase and refers to retrieving information from
Long Term Memory is retrieved and stored by association, whereas Short Term
Memory is retrieved sequentially. If a person organises the information, it can
make retrieval a lot easier.


Previous Research

The aim of Peterson & Peterson
(1959) research was to investigate the duration of short term memory and to
provide evidence for the multi-store model (Atkinson & Shiffrin 1968 cited

The multi-store model is the idea that
the human memory has three separate components. The first area is the sensory
register, the second is short-term store and the third is the long-term store.
The sensory register is where the brain reacts to environmental stimulus and
the information briefly enters the memory while the brain works out what to do
with the information. Atkinson & Shiffrin argue that the role of the
sensory register is to act like a buffer, preventing humans from being
overwhelmed by all the information from the environment around them. The
information from the environment is either lost after a short amount of time to
trace decay, or in the case of attention is be given to the information, only
then will it be sent to the short-term store. In the short-term store a memory
can be held between 18 and 20 seconds in duration when it is not being
rehearsed or actively trying to be remembered. When it is rehearsed it can be
transferred to the long-term store where the memory can become a lot more
permanent. In long-term store the memory is pretty much kept until needed,
where then it is transferred back to short-term store where it can be manipulated
to suit the current task at hand.

Peterson and Peterson ( wanted
to provide evidence for the multi-store model by investigating in to short-term
memory and its duration. They did this by using a lab experiment and had
participants recall trigrams, which are nonsense three-consonant syllables such
THC or CBD. The participants consisted of 24 psychology students. To prevent
the participants from rehearsing their trigrams, Peterson and Peterson asked
their participants to count backwards in threes or fours from a stated random
number until the participant saw a red light appear. This technique is now
known as the “Brown Peterson Technique”. 
After intervals of 3,6,9,12 or 18 seconds, the participants were then
asked to recall their trigrams. From this research, Peterson and Peterson found
that the less trigrams were recalled when the interval delay was longer. After
the 3 second delay, on average participants were able to recall with 80%
accuracy, whereas only 10% of trigrams were accurately recalled after an 18
second interval. This showed that if short-term memory was prevented from
rehearsal that it will have a limited duration.


The aim is to test the duration of
short term memory and its duration with familiar one syllable words and
trigrams. The hypothesis is; “Familiar
one syllable words will be recalled more successfully than trigrams”,
making it a one tailed hypothesis due to it favouring one outcome over another.

As a null hypothesis;
“There will be no difference between the
accuracy of recall by either group”.
The experiment is justified due to being based on previous research conducted
by Peterson and Peterson (1959). Their research had found the longer the
duration of interruption, the less accurate participants were at recalling
trigrams. After a delay of 3 seconds 80% of participants recalled correctly in
comparison to those after an 18 second delay with only 10% accuracy of recall.
Due to the interruption, rehearsal was not possible and showed Short Term
Memory had a limited duration. The original study had low ecological validity
as humans do not have to recall trigrams. By adding familiar words will make
the study more ecologically valid.



will be a laboratory experiment as it shows cause and effect.
Independent Measures will be used as it will prevent order effect, preventing
boredom or fatigue from affecting participants performance/behaviour. It also
prevents participants from preparing for a second time which would be an issue
if the design was repeated measures.

Independent Variable are words or trigrams that are used.
Dependant Variable are the participants memory/ability to recall.
It will be operationalised by the percentage of correctly recalled information
and the duration of interruption (3 – 18 to count back from).
To control extraneous variables, the room temperature and time of day will be
same for all participants.


participants will be university students aged between 18 and 25 years old,
mixed gender and ethnicity. 240 participants, 120 each group.

sampling method will be self-selecting because it is convenient and gives
informed consent.



study will take place in 4 rooms, 2 waiting rooms (1 for each group) and 2
testing rooms (1 for each group). 2 stop watches will be needed (1 for each
test room), 2 tables and 4 chairs (again 1 table for each room, a chair for
both participant and researcher). Trigrams will also be needed by the
researcher and single syllable words by the other researcher.
(See Appendix-1)



A and B will be taken to separate waiting rooms. Testing will begin 1pm onwards
for both groups. Participants will be tested individually in a separate room.
Once seated, the participant will be given either a Trigram (Group A) or Word
(Group B) to remember such as BRL or SOAP. Participant will be asked to count
back from a random number in either 3’s or 4’s from a random number to prevent
them from rehearsing their word or trigram. The duration of counting will vary
from 3, 6, 9, 12, and 18 seconds, with 24 participants for each duration for
each group. After they have counted back they will be asked to recall their
trigram or word. Once completed participant will be asked to leave so not to
communicate with other participants.
(See Appendix-2)

Participants can withdraw from study for any reason at any time and results
Participants can stop at any point if they do not wish to continue. No personal
information will be retained or published other than sex and age. A consent
form (See Appendix-3) will be required to be signed before the participant may
take part.


Reliability & Validity

experiment shows validity as it will be measuring short-term memory, and what
information short term memory is more likely to retain (relatable words or
random trigrams).
It has many participants who will be doing either task A or task B. The
experiment will take place at the same time, same day, in separate rooms making
the results reliable as nothing has changed other than what is to be
remembered. It will be reliable as participants will not be able to communicate
with others what the test will be about as they must leave after the
experiment. The study was piloted to ensure that it would run smoothly.

Handling Results

that familiar words will be recalled more accurately than trigrams.
Researchers will record on a spreadsheet. The findings will be presented as a
written report.


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