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A Classic Memory Experiment for the Classroom

Joseph Sparks

10th August 2016

A recent Guardian article questions the accuracy memory and provides a useful classroom strategy for testing memory.

Read: Is your memory as accurate as you think it is?

Running the experiment

Credit: Original photograph taken by Pete Etchells, as found on the Guardian website referenced below.

To run the experiment, present students with three lists of words (pictured above). Then present students with another list of words and ask them to state which ones appeared in the original lists.

  • Chair
  • Top
  • Sleep
  • Slow
  • Seat
  • Yawn
  • Mountain
  • Sweet

You might find that your students report seeing words like slow, sweet and strong, despite the fact they didn’t appear in the original lists. This experiment is a classic example of false recognition, but may be an interesting way to discuss models of memory or even eyewitness testimony.

Reference: Etchells, P. (2016, August 8). Is your memory as accurate as you think it is? (Guardian) Retrieved August 10, 2016.

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Joseph Sparks

Joseph is a Subject Advisor for Psychology at tutor2u. He is an experienced Psychology & Music Teacher, Writer, Examiner and Presenter. He is currently completing a Professional Doctorate in Education and is passionate about the impact of technology on teaching and learning.

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