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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Excellence in College Prep


Psychology students have been spending the last few weeks replicating famous psychological experiments and comparing their data to best understand what affects human memory. After taking the time to research these experiments, students were paired up in small groups and, according to which experiment they were most interested in, tested their participants' subconscious behavior using different methods. One group pulled inspiration from the Lexical Retrieval Hypothesis which states that hand gestures assist in helping retrieve verbal information from semantic memory. Likewise, if hand gestures are restrained, it is proven that individuals find it more difficult to recall information either because they can't speak using their hands or because they're more focused on not being able to use their hands. Students in this group acknowledged that active movement helps stimulate the mind and that most conversations we engage in involve using our hands to assist with our communication.

Another group recreated John Ridley Stroop's 1935 experiment, asking participants to read two lists of color words with one list printed in black and white and the other printed in colors that didn't match with their name (i.e. the word "green" was printed in "red," etc.). This cognitive experiment proved that the words printed in color did not affect participants from reading the correct word. Students reflected on how this concept ties in to advertising and how brands choose certain colors to evoke an emotion or memory through their advertisements and whether or not it really works. They also acknowledged that selective attention plays a key role in this experiment, recognizing how stimuli from outside and within the mind can affect one's reaction time.

To focus more on short-term memory, one group was inspired by Glanzer and Cunitz's 1966 experiment in which two groups of participants were read a list of words. However, one group was asked to immediately write down as many words as they could remember and the other was delayed 30 seconds before they could beginning writing. The results showed that those in the first group easily remembered the words read at the beginning and the end of the list whereas the second group could only recall a few words from the beginning of the list before their memory faulted, failing to remember any of the words read at the end of the list. Students acknowledged that this experiment also tests the Schema theory, which states that all knowledge is organized into units, as well as the effects of primacy and recency. They concluded that memories are never concrete and to ensure that long-term memory remains truthful, the brain must put forward effort to remember the basics of short-term memories and to not overload their memory with details that it will inevitably forget. By being more consistent with memory categorization and intentional repetition, memories can become stronger and can ultimately be linked to one's emotions.

In the final stages of their experiments, students are now learning about different data sets and how to accurately calculate and run statistical analyses of the data they've collected. This experience has provided them with an in-depth understanding of how the human brain functions and how memories are recounted, stored and influenced by stimuli and emotions.

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