Memory "chunking"!Science project video

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Complexity level:
4
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Abstract

Why is it that some people have better memory than others? There are a number of factors that can influence memory, and sometimes people are better at remembering certain types of information, while they have a more difficult time remembering information of another nature. An example of this is that some people are very good at remembering faces but have trouble remembering numbers. Whether a person has a very good memory or a bad one, the ultimate factor for determining memory lies in how the brain processes information. One way of processing information is referred to as "chunking". In this science experiment, you will test the effects of chunking on memory.

Objective

Evaluate how memory is affected by chunking.

Background

Have you ever noticed that most telephone numbers are seven digits long (Excluding the area code)? This is not by accident. Research shows that for most people, seven digits is the most they can remember the first time they hear a phone number. People who can remember more than seven bits of information after a single exposure, do so by providing context to the information. Chunking is one way of providing context to information so that it can more easily be retained and retrieved from memory. In chunking, random information is grouped together, making it easier to remember. Try this for yourself; study the information below for 30 seconds and try to memorize it:

X M C F G L Z O E W Q P V 2 N 8 J 4 U A 4 3

How many symbols did you remember?

Now repeat this exercise using the line below.

XMC FGL ZOE WQP V2N 8J4U A43

Were you able to remember more symbols this time? The second line is an example of chunking. There is no difference between the first and second line other than that information in the second line was grouped into units, making remembering of the information less difficult.

Scientific Terms

Memory, Chunking

Materials

  • 10 participants: Consisting five males and five females. Age range can vary.
  • Two poster boards
  • Marker
  • Watch with a second hand.
  • Data table (Provided).

Procedure

Pre experiment

Prepare the two poster boards as described in the "background" section. You can use the same symbols or you can choose your own letter and number sequences. The first poster board should show the random symbols; the second poster board will show the symbols "chunked."

Conducting the Experiment

  1. Test one participant at a time.
  2. Present the first poster board to the participant.
  3. Advise the participant that he or she has 30 seconds to memorize the symbols.
  4. When the 30 seconds are over, remove the poster board from view.
  5. Ask the participant to repeat back to you, as many symbols as he or she is able to.
  6. Note the number of correct responses on the data sheet.
  7. Repeat this procedure with poster board 2.
  8. When all the participants have been tested, total up the correct responses of all participants for both the first and second poster board.
  9. Based on the totals, was there improvement in the number of correct responses between the two boards?

Data Sheet

Poster board 1 (Number of correct responses)

Poster board 2 (Number of correct responses)

Participant 1

Participant 2

Participant 3

Participant 4

Participant 5

Participant 6

Participant 7

Participant 8

Participant 9

Participant 10

Totals

Discussion

Do you have memories of a scene from a movie or the line of a song, even though you may have only seen that movie or heard the song only once? Why is it you can remember the scene or line, even though the movie or song contained numerous amounts of information? Draw from what you learned from this science fair project and develop a theory.

Questions & Answers

What is chunking?

Organizing or grouping random information into groups for easier memorization.

Make it Your Own

Rerun the test and test for gender differences.

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