Effect of Levels of Processing on Memory Recall

28 Mar 2018

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  • Jason Celia

Report Four: An experimental study of the effect of levels of processing on memory recall.

Abstract

By utilising an opportunity sample of friends and family (N=42, M=27.45, SD=11.94, aged 16 to 63) of students from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (Swansea), this study set out to demonstrate Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) level of processing, through the medium of incidental learning, in which material is learnt by a participant, even though the participant was not expecting to be tested (Jenkins, 1974). After completing a filter task of counting three sets of words, from three word lists, that matched three conditions (orthographic, phonological and semantic), the participants were asked to list as many words as they could remember. As predicted, these results clearly show a difference in recall between all three groups (phonological, semantic and orthographic), with the variance between each condition bring homogenous (P>.05) and significant (f(2,82)=26.15, p<.001). These differences are in line with the study’s hypothesis.

Introduction

Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) describes memory recall in terms of level of processing, the shallower the processing the more fragile the memory and the more susceptible to decay. Unlike Atkinson and Shiffrin’s (1968) multi store model, there is no long and short term memory, in this theory short and long term stores refers to a permanent structural components of the memory system (Gross, 2008), and memories are formed as a by-product of the level of processing (Craik, 2002).

Although, Craik and Lockhart (1972) suggest that level of processing cannot be counted as a theory of memory, but a heuristic framework, in which memory encoding, retention and retrieval can be studied. Be it a framework or theory, level of processing is mainly concerned with encoding of the information to be learnt and the relationship between how the information is processed and remembered (Baddeley, 1999).

Within the model there are two levels of processing, shallow and deep, with three types of processing (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). Shallow processing, which contains structural and phonemic processing, which only requires maintenance rehearsal and leads to short term memory retention (Craik & Lockhart, 1972); and deep processing in which encodes semantic or the means of words, requiring elaboration rehearsal and meaningful analysis, and therefore better retention (Craik & Lockhart, 1972).

Craik and Tulving (1975) found that memory recall is significantly better when the meaning of a word is encoded rather than the structure, whereas Graf and Ryan (1990) suggests recall of information is dramatically improved if the mental processes that occurred whilst encoding the information match those while retrieving the information. Crucially, Craik and Tulving (1975), Graf and Ryan (1990) and Challis (1993) suggest that rehearsal of the material did not help with recall, although the Maki and Schuler (1980) experiment agreed with Craik and Tulving (1975), Maki and Schuler (1980) did find that longer rehearsal times did lead to better retention.

Within the Schuler (1980) experiment, Schuler (1980) examined both effects, the level of processing, and length of time the participant had to rehearse, and although rehearsal times were indirectly linked to the position of the target word within a word list, and therefore it is not known if one word had longer rehearsal times than others (Craik, 2002) however, it may suggest level of processing is not the only factor of memory (Craik, 2002).

Seabrook, Brown and Solity (2005) examined the spacing effect and if it could help to explain rehearsal. Within the spacing effect memory retention is improved by spacing out the information to be enclosed and therefor allowing the information to be processed more deeply than information presented on mass.

Based upon the literature reviewed this study will investigate Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) level of processing. The idea of this study was to examine the idea that long term memory is not a simple storage unit, as proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin’s (1968), but in fact is a complex processing system (Craik & Tulving, 1975). This study demonstrated Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) level of processing through the medium of incidental learning, in which material is learnt by a participant, even though the participant was not expecting to be tested and therefore unlikely to have rehearsed the material (Jenkins, 1974). Whilst highlighting the way in which elaboration requires deeper processing can aid memory retention and recall (Craik & Tulving, 1975).

It is hypothesised that: within a word list, the greater the degree in which each word is processed the greater the recall.

Methods

Participants

This study utilised an opportunity sample of friends and family of Psychology and Counselling students studying at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (Swansea). Each student gathered results from an average of 3 participants, in total 42 participants aged 16 to 63 (M=27.45, SD=11.94) (Appendix A) took part in this study, in which 21 were females aged 16 to 58 (M=27.57, SD=11.57) and 21 males aged 18 to 63 (M=27.33, SD=12.58) (Appendix B).

Design

The study utilised repeated measures design, in which every participant followed the same procedure. The study manipulated the independent variable (level of processing), which had three conditions (orthographic, phonological and semantic) to record their effect on the dependent variable, the recall.

Materials

The main material utilised in this study was a laptop running a Microsoft PowerPoint (Appendix C). This option was decided upon because of Microsoft PowerPoint’s ability to auto-advance a slide, to the next slide, after a pre-set time delay. The Microsoft PowerPoint presentation also included the instructions, which allowed the study to be conducted with no distractions. When all the slides had been shown, the participant would write their recall on a piece of paper.

In order to comply with BPS ethical framework (British Psychology Society, 2009) consent from each and every participant was collected via a consent form (Appendix D).

Procedure

Upon greeting the participant it is ethically correct to get the participant’s informed consent, although in this case, it is important that the participant did not know they will be asked to recall as many words as possible at the end of the study. As with this knowledge the participant may consciously put more effect in to remembering the three sets of eight words.

With the participant’s consent the participant sat in front of the laptop, where the presentation was already loaded and waiting. The participant followed the instructions in the presentation and with a click of the mouse the participant was presented with the next side. Slides three (phonological words), five (semantic words) and seven (orthographic words) would automatically move on to the next slide after a time delay of eight seconds, on those slides clicking the mouse had no effect.

After a completion of a filter task in which the participant recalled the number of phonological, semantic and orthographic words, the participant completed the task by recalling all of the words they could remember from those slides.

Upon completion the participant was debriefed and informed of the full nature of the task they had completed, and the theory behind the study. Every participant was given the choice to have their data removed from the study, although no participant wished to do so.

Confounding variables were controlled by having all of the words shown to participants, shown for the same length of time, and by keeping the words used to a similar length or complexity. Also by having all of the instructions contained within the presentation, the atmosphere is quieter, ensuring that nothing can interfere with the participant and the participant’s ability to recall the words shown.

Results

This study, in total, produced 42 complete set of data (Appendix E). In which (Graph 1) the shallow (orthographic) level of processing (N=42, M=1.12, SD=1.44) had the lowest level of recall, followed by the Intermediate (Phonological) level of processing (N=42, M=2.19, SD=1.22) and with the highest rate of recall was the deep (semantic) level of processing (N=42, M=3.02, SD=1.49).

In order to determine if the results were significant, a one way Anova test was performed on the data (Appendix G). With the variance between each condition bring homogenous (P>.05) and significant (f(2,82)=26.15, p<.001) results clearly shows that there are three distinct levels of processing with three corresponding levels of recall and as the level of processing increased so did the number of words recalled. Therefore the hypothesis is accepted.

Discussion

This study returned a significant positive result, providing evidence for the support of the main hypothesis and is in line with Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) level of processing framework, in which memories can be formed by how much processing the information requires.

These results clearly show a significant difference in recall between all three groups (phonological, semantic and orthographic). These differences are in line with the hypothesis, in which the set of words with the highest level of processing (semantic) would yield a better recall result than phonological recall, which in turn would yield better recall than orthographic (lowest level of processing), and therefore are in line with many studies, including studies by Craik and Lockhart.

Craik and Lockhart (1972) hypothesised that any information processing as under the control of a central processor. Any retention of information depends on how the central processor was used during learning (Gross, 2008), as the results of this study show, the deeper the level of processing, the better the retention and recall. This study did not test a central idea, in which the nature of the processing response is directly related to the original task (Parkin, 1993). For example in this study the participants were asked to count the words in capitals (Appendix C, Slide seven) and therefore on that slide, the participant’s processing capabilities may have been restricted to the orthographic level (Craik & Lockhart, 1972).

This study does have its own limitations; the study did not engage in counter balancing the order in which the slides were shown. All three of the word slides (Appendix C, Slides three, five and seven) were shown in the same order for all of the participants. With a delay of over 24 seconds from the Slide three to the end of the presentation, it is possible that the delay had an effect on recall.

Whilst Hyde and Jenkins (1973) suggest there may be other factors that helped the participant’s recall, this includes, words that are pleasant and words that are used more often both produce a significantly higher retention, and Parkin (1993) observed that two words that are related to each other, recall of the first word helps the recall of the second word.

Although semantic processing did have the highest level of recall, Craik and Tulving (1975) proposed semantic processing took longer to perform. This suggests that varying the time delays in which the slides are shown, from a short delay for the phonemic slide to a longer delay for the semantic slide may be a fairer test.

Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) level of processing had a huge impact on memory research (Rutherford, 2005); although today most psychologists believe that the framework is over simplified (Gross, 2008). Prior to Craik and Lockhart (1972) the nature of memory mostly pivoted around the structures holding the information (Rutherford, 2005). Many psychologists paid little attention to the relationship between perception and memory, or to how the learning process can affect retention (Gross, 2008). Although, level of processing as a framework showed the variations in encoding that could occur (Rutherford, 2005), there have been many attempts to extend or modify the level of processing model to include elaboration and distinctiveness (Eysenck & Keane, 1995).

To conclude, these significant results are in line with Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) level of processing framework, in which not only can information be learnt without rehearsal (incidental learning), as proposed by Jenkins (1974), but the level at which the information is processed also has an effect on learning. As hypothesised, words which require the highest level of processing (semantic) yielded better recall results when compared to words that require mid-range level of processing (phonological), which in turn yielded better results than lower level processing (orthographic).

Reference

Atkinson, R.C., & Shiffrin, R.M. (1968). Human Memory: A Proposed System and its Control Processes. The psychology of learning and motivation, 2, 89–195.

Baddeley, A. (1999). Essentials of Human Memory. Hove: Psychology Press.

British Psychology Society. (2009). Code of Conduct [electronic]. Available from: http://www.bps.org.uk/the-society/code-of-conduct/ [Accessed 5 April 2014].

Challis, B. H. (1993). Spacing effects on cued-memory tests depend on level of processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 19(2), 389-396. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.19.2.389

Craik, F.M. (2002). Levels of processing: Past, present ... and future? Memory, 10(6), 305-318. doi:10.1080/09658210244000135

Craik, F.M., & Lockhart, R.S. (1972). Levels of Processing: A Framework for Memory Research. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behaviour, 11, 671-684

Craik, F. M., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), 268-294. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.104.3.268

Eysenck, M.W., & Keane, M.T. (1995). Cognitive Psychology: A Student’s Handbook, 3rd edition. Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Graf, P., & Ryan, L. (1990). Transfer-appropriate processing for implicit and explicit memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 16(6), 978-992. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.16.6.978

Gross, R. (2008). Key Studies in Psychology. 5th Edition. London: Hodder Education.

Hyde, T.S. and Jenkins, J.J. (1973). Recall for words as a function of semantic, graphic and syntactic orienting tasks. Journal of Verbal Learning and Behaviour, 12, 471–80.

Jenkins, J.J. (1974). Remember that old theory of memory? Well, forget it! American psychologist, 29(11), 785-795. doi:10.1037/h0037399

Maki, R.H., & Schuler, R. (1980). Effects of rehearsal duration and level of processing on memory for words Original Research Article. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 19(1), 36-45.

Parkin, A.J. (1993). Memory: Phenomena, Experiment and Theory. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Rutherford, A. (2005). Long-term memory: Encoding to retrieval. Oxford: Oxford University Press in association with the Open University.

Seabrook, R., Brown, G. A., & Solity, J. E. (2005). Distributed and massed practice: from laboratory to classroom. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19(1), 107-122. doi:10.1002/acp.1066

Appendix A

Report

Age

Mean

N

Std. Deviation

27.45

42

11.935

     

Appendix B

Group Statistics

 

Gender

N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Std. Error Mean

Age

Female

21

27.57

11.565

2.524

Male

21

27.33

12.579

2.745

           

Appendix C

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

Slide 4

Slide 5

Slide 6

Slide 7

Slide 8

Slide 9

Appendix D

Appendix E

Gender

Age

Deep

Intermediate

Shallow

Female

21

3

3

0

Male

20

1

3

0

Female

46

2

4

0

Male

43

3

3

0

Female

32

3

1

0

Male

19

3

4

0

Female

18

6

1

0

Male

39

3

2

0

Male

20

2

0

1

Female

16

3

0

0

Female

58

4

3

0

Male

63

3

1

0

Female

31

3

2

1

Female

38

3

1

1

Male

42

3

0

0

Male

20

3

1

0

Female

23

3

1

0

Female

20

3

3

0

Male

20

3

2

1

Female

20

3

2

1

Female

20

4

4

0

Male

21

3

2

0

Male

22

3

1

1

Male

24

4

2

1

Male

19

2

3

0

Male

19

3

3

0

Female

20

2

3

1

Female

48

4

3

3

Female

25

8

5

4

Male

49

6

4

3

Male

20

1

0

2

Male

18

0

2

4

Male

19

3

2

0

Male

21

2

3

1

Male

22

2

2

0

Female

18

0

3

2

Female

19

4

3

4

Female

35

4

2

3

Female

20

5

3

4

Female

21

2

2

3

Male

34

1

1

2

Female

30

4

2

4

Appendix F

Descriptive Statistics

 

Mean

Std. Deviation

N

Deep

3.02

1.490

42

Intermediate

2.19

1.215

42

Shallow

1.12

1.435

42

       

Appendix G

Mauchly's Test of Sphericitya

Measure: MEASURE_1

Within Subjects Effect

Mauchly's W

Approx. Chi-Square

df

Sig.

Epsilonb

Greenhouse-Geisser

Huynh-Feldt

Lower-bound

Depth_of_processing

.976

.976

2

.614

.976

1.000

.500

               

Tests of Within-Subjects Effects

Measure: MEASURE_1

Source

Type III Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Depth_of_processing

Sphericity Assumed

76.587

2

38.294

26.150

.000

Greenhouse-Geisser

76.587

1.953

39.217

26.150

.000

Huynh-Feldt

76.587

2.000

38.294

26.150

.000

Lower-bound

76.587

1.000

76.587

26.150

.000

Error(Depth_of_processing)

Sphericity Assumed

120.079

82

1.464

   

Greenhouse-Geisser

120.079

80.070

1.500

   

Huynh-Feldt

120.079

82.000

1.464

   

Lower-bound

120.079

41.000

2.929

   
             



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