Levels of Processing and Their Effect on Information Retention

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Memory and Self Assessment 2
Abstract
One of humanities’ greatest strength is our capacity to learn, although not all methods of learning were created equal. If humanity is to continue to grow as a species our methods of learning must continue to grow and improve. This experiment illustrates how different methods of encoding can affect how information is retained. Nine hundred and ninety nine participants were presented with 26 pairs of words under both semantic and phonemic conditions and then tested to see how many they could recall. Participants were also asked to assess themselves prior to the experiment. It was found that most people overestimated their abilities and did not take into account the method of encoding. Memory and Self Assessment 3

Levels of Processing and their effect on Information Retention Do we perceive our ability to retain information accurately? Significant time and effort has been invested into researching memory and the effect the depth of processing has on the ability to recall words. Research has shown that semantic encoding has resulted in significantly better word retention than such as phonemic encoding (Craik & Tulving 1975). When asked to estimate their ability to perform in tasks involving memory, the majority of people will not take the method of encoding into account and will estimate inaccurately (Dunning, Heath & Suls 2004).

The reason that semantic encoding has resulted in a better word retention than phonemic is due to the variation in the depth of processing. Sensory interpretations such as the sound or appearance of a word are processed at shallower levels and produce only shortterm recall. These levels are involved in phonemic encoding, for example grouping words together depending on how they sound, such as TRAIN and SPAIN. Deeper levels of processing concern the meaning of the word and result in a more long-term recollection. These levels are involved in semantic encoding, grouping words together depending on their meaning, CAT and DOG for example.

The reason people estimate their ability to recall inaccurately could be one of a many. It could be that people feel the task simple and overestimate their ability or they could think the task difficult, when in reality it isn’t, and underestimate their abilities. Another reason could be that people aren’t aware of the theory behind the task and are unable to make an informed decision (Dunning, et al. 2004)

This experiment aims to demonstrate whether semantic or phonemic encoding yields a higher recall, and to investigate how accurate people are at estimating their abilities. The primary hypothesis of this experiment is that participants in the semantic condition, the deeper level of processing, will result in a higher percentage of words recalled. The secondary hypothesis is that people aren’t aware of how the encoding process affects their ability to recall the words and so the estimations for both conditions will be the same. The tertiary hypothesis is that people will overestimate their abilities and so the predictions for both conditions will be higher than the given value.

Memory and Self Assessment 4
Method
Participants
There were 992 first year psychology students that participated in the experiment. The age and gender of the students was not recorded. 518 students participated in the phonemic condition and 474 students participated in the semantic condition. Materials

The experiment involved the use of a web browser on a computer; participant’s input was done with keyboard and mouse. 26 word pairs were used and six test word pairs. Procedure
Participants were randomly assigned to either the phonemic or semantic condition. They were told to go to a computer open the web browser to the experiment, enter their name and select the condition they had been assigned. Participants were instructed in the experiment’s procedure and then asked to estimate the percentage of words they would be able to recall. They were then...
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