Effect of anxiety on short term memory
The materials required for this science fair project:
- 20 male participants age 12 years old
- 20 female participants age 12 years old
- 50 random unique objects – e.g.. soda can, watch, ball, clock, table, umbrella, banana, cell phone, radio, etc.
- 1 stopwatch
- 40 sheets of paper and pencils
- A classroom
- 2 curtains, bedsheets or blankets
- An adult assistant
1. For this science fair project, the independent variable is the gender of the participants and their anxiety levels (calm or stressed). The dependent variable is the ability of the male and female participants to remember the objects that they saw. This is determined by asking them to write down or recite from memory a list of the objects they had seen previously. The constants (control variables) are the number of objects, the time given to look at the objects and the time given to write down or say the list of objects.
2. Separate the objects into 2 groups of 25 each. Arrange the first set neatly at the front of a classroom, and the second set at the back of the classroom. Then, cover each set of objects with a blanket so that none of the participants will be able to see them before the test.
3. Select 20 12-year-old boys and 20 12-year-old girls for the science fair project and bring them to the classroom. Remove the blanket covering the first set of objects. Ensure that all participants are able to see the objects clearly at all times. Allow them 2 minutes to memorize the names of all the objects laid out. Monitor the time with a stopwatch.
4. Give each participant a sheet of paper and a pencil. Ask each participant to write down their name, age and gender at the top of the paper, followed by a list of the objects that they remember seeing. Collect the papers after 10 minutes. Record the number of correct objects recalled by each participant in a table, as shown below.
5. The next day, bring the participants back to the classroom to look at the 2nd group of objects at the back of the classroom. Allow them 2 minutes to memorize the names of the objects set out. Now, one at a time, ask the students to recite from memory, the list of objects they had seen earlier - only this time, immediately before each student recites his list, whisper to him (without letting the rest of the class know) that he is being graded for this and the results will be counted towards his class performance. Tell him that a teaching assistant has been assigned to assess his performance and at that point have your assistant enter the room. Remember not to tell the rest of the students who the "assistant" is, until it is their turn to recite from memory. Record the number of correct objects recalled by each participant in a table, as shown below.