Introduction: How to Do a Psychology Short-Term Memory Experiment

In the field of psychology, many experiments are performed in order to access human behavior. The experiment described below, will evaluate short-term memory in human participants.

The novice experiment was acquired from this website:

Step 1: Gather Supplies

The first step is to gather the needed supplies. You will need:
• 4 volunteers to do the experiment-2 men and 2 women (not shown)
• A piece of paper to write down your data (the paper with a table and the list of questions on it is provided)
• A piece of paper for the volunteer to write down their responses (paper with blanks on it is provided)
• Word lists #1 and #2 the volunteer will be shown to memorize (provided)
• 2 pencils or pens (one for you and one for the volunteer)
• A stopwatch or smart phone alternative (not shown)
• Calculator

Also, if you need extra copies of the provided documents (or you do not have them), they can be found/printed here:

Step 2: First Volunteer and Study Explanation

• Have you and your volunteer sit at a table on opposite sides of each other. Try to use a consistent area for all your volunteers. An environment that has minimal noise, moderate lighting, and minimal distraction is best.
• Briefly tell the volunteer what the experiment will be about and how long it will take.  (“In this study, we will be accessing memory in human participants. The study should last less than 10 minutes.”)

Step 3: Preparation to Begin

Place the sheet of paper with the first set of words on it, in front of the volunteer facing down (so that they cannot see the words). Tell the participant, “you will have two minutes to memorize the set of words on the back of this piece of paper. You will be asked to recall them later.” They are not allowed to write on this paper, as it will be used again for later participants.

Step 4: First Trial of Word Memorization

Whenever the participant is ready, have them turn the paper over. When they turn the paper over, start the timer for two minutes.

Step 5: First Trial of Word Recall

When the timer goes off, take the piece of paper with the words on it away from the volunteer. Now, give them the word recall sheet of paper immediately after, and have them write down all the words that they can remember. They only have two minutes to do this as well, so time them with a timer.

Collect the paper from them when the timer is up.

Step 6: Second Word List Trial

Now, the same participant will repeat steps 3-5 using the SECOND LIST of words.

Step 7: Debriefing

Thank the volunteer for their time, and debrief them. (“Well, in this study we accessed short-term memory in humans. The first word list was composed of unrelated words, while the second list was composed of groups of related words in chunks. It is hypothesized that the second word list would be easier for you to memorize since the words are related. Are there any questions?”). *If there are none, then they are free to go. *If there are questions, answer them briefly. Also, remind them that cross-talking (telling other potential participants about the study) is highly discouraged and should not be done by any means.

Step 8: Second Volunteer

Repeat steps 2-7 with the second volunteer.

Step 9: Third Volunteer

Repeat steps 2-7 with the third volunteer.

Step 10: Fourth Volunteer

Repeat steps 2-7 with the fourth volunteer.

Step 11: General Conclusions

Fill out the table provided with the information you received from the study
• Count the number of correct words recalled in each category from each volunteer and put it in the appropriate section of the table. Counting off for spelling is at the discretion of the experimenter, but strive to be consistent. If the word is spelled wrong, but you know what they were going for, then it may be counted correct.
• Find the total and average number of words recalled from all participants together from word list #1 and from word list #2

Step 12: Important Note

Draw conclusions from the experiment by answering the questions below the table and crafting a general statement from your study using the template provided.

However, you should also understand that these conclusions are for mere novice educational benefit. These conclusions can not and should not be generalized to bigger populations. Due to the extremely small sample size and not taking into account order effects, many APA (American Psychological Association) style rules were not followed over the course of this experiment. Additionally, a genuine psychological analysis (such as SPSS) was not utilized either. The reason this was done the way it was, was so that the experiment would be a lot easier to follow and understand.

Step 13: Step 15:

Congratulations, you have just completed a beginner level psychological experiment!