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Stress and Memory

Stress and Memory

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Science Fair Project Description

Ever forget someone?s name? Despite your efforts to remember the name, you come up blank. Only when you stopped trying, the name comes back to you. In this science fair project, you will evaluate how stress affects our memory.
Complexity level:4
Time required:Additional time is required to recruit participants
Safety concerns:


Our ability to retrieve memories can be influenced by a number of factors. Fatigue, preoccupation with other thoughts, aging, and stress are but a few of them. Long term memory is usually more stable and resistant to such factors. However, short-term memory is much more vulnerable to such factors. In this experiment, you will create a mildly stressful situation for the participants, as well as focusing their attention. The pressure on the participants to do well, and having to concentrate on instructions, will impact their ability to remember a sequence of tasks.

Scientific Terms

Short term memory, long term memory


  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Five participants (Gender and age can vary).



  1. Develop a list of 8 tasks for participants to perform. Examples of tasks would be:
    1. Jumping up and down
    2. Running in place
    3. Performing jumping jacks
    4. Reciting the alphabet
    5. Turning around three times.
    6. Singing your favorite song
    7. Push ups
    8. Standing on one leg
  2. It is important that these tasks are written down and the list be used during the experiment. How you deliver the instructions is the key to the experiment. When conducting the experiment, you want to give instructions in rapid fire succession. Example:
    1. Jump up and down (wait for 3-4 seconds)
    2. Run in place (wait for 3-4 seconds)
    3. Do jumping jacks (wait for 3-4 seconds)

Conducting the experiment

  1. This science project should be conducted on participants as a group where they are to perform the tasks together.
  2. Introduce the experiment to the participants, by explaining to them that you are conducting an experiment on how well people are able to follow instructions and that you will be giving them a number of tasks to perform.
  3. Run the participants through all the tasks, making sure that you give the directives quickly, as described in the "pre-experiment" section. Participants go through the list one time only.
  4. End the experiment by asking the participants what was the 3rd task on the list.
  5. Were any of the participants able to remember what the 3rd task was?

Related videos

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