Digit Span

Topics: Working memory, Short-term memory, Handedness Pages: 7 (1066 words) Published: November 4, 2013


Digit Span is an activity where a participant has to repeat a series of numbers to their instructor, such set of numbers lengthen each time. It is used to measure a person's short term memory and how much they can memorize. This paper uses Digit Span to find out whether a person can memorize letters or binary numbers more. Our statistics show that binary numbers are recalled more than single letters even though our hypothesis was that letters are easier to memorize. In grade school and high school, students are usually given a vocabulary list by their English teacher to help them expand their knowledge and learn new words. Such list would usually have 20-40 words to be memorized from my experience. We would complain and frown at the list, knowing that we couldn't memorize all of them just before the quiz, that it took time and effort to memorize all the words and their meaning. Why would such a powerful brain be unable to memorize 20-40 words in one sitting? It is said in Simon's research (1974) that the chunk capacity of a brain, or the pieces it can memorize whether words or phrases can vary from five to seven. An example of that is his experiment where he tried to memorize 'Lincoln, milk, criminal, differential, address, way, lawyer, calculus, and Gettysburg' which didn't fit the five to seven word chunk the brain can memorize. He then rearranged such words to 'Lincoln's Gettysburg Address', 'Milky Way', 'Criminal Lawyer', and 'Differential Calculus' which was easily memorized. He then predicted that 6 or 7 words can be memorized by the brain and 4 or 5 for phrases, showing that 'as one moves from one-syllable to three-syllable words, then to familiar two-word and three-word phrases, then to familiar phrases of 6 to 10 words, the memory span, measured in syllables, words and chunks vary'.

Cowan (2010) also said that the capacity limit of memorizing is 3 to 5 separate items, contradicting Simon's 6 or 7 words but accepting his 4 or 5 phrases. Their and other scientist's research on the human capacity of memorization has been used in several ways, an example would be therapy sessions to cure or lessen ADHD. Students, such as myself, who have ADHD, are asked to memorize and repeat 4 to 5 sentences that was said by our teacher after hearing it, and if said incorrectly, to repeat again and again until memorized, thus getting our attention and helping our mind work normally. With that said, this paper shall use their research to show that the brain has a limit when it comes to short term memory and to find out if a person’s mind has a specific limit to several numbers, single digit numbers, letters and binary numbers. Though, the comparison of the amount of letters and binary numbers participants can memorize is our priority.

There were 1036 participants for this experiment, 706 of them were females, 321 of them were males and 9 of them preferred not to say their gender. Out of them there are 934 right-handed people and 102 left-handed people.

Prefer not to say

Right or Left
Right Handed
Left Handed

The materials needed for this experiment were just a computer, Wi-fi, a MyPsychLab account, the link to the Digit Span experiment and time to participate.

Participants are asked to go to MyPsychLab and click on the link that leads them to the Digit Span test. They were then asked to give their age, gender and whether they were right or left handed before doing the test. The test consisted of binary, single and whole numbers plus letters flashing on the screen, lengthening at each round. Participants are asked to memorize each number or letter that blinked on the screen before writing them in the blank.

Statistical Plan:
We conducted an analysis, comparing the results of binary numbers...

References: Cowan, Nelson. (2010). The Magical Mystery Four: How is Working Memory Capacity
Limited, and Why? Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2,
Simon, Herbert A. (1974). How Big Is a Chunk?. Science: New Series, Volume 183, No.
4124. 482 – 487.
Bor, Daniel and Owen, Adrian M. (2007). A Common Prefrontal-parietal Network for Mnemonic
and Mathematical Recording Strategies within Working Memory. Cerebral Cortex, Volume 17, No. 4. 778-786.
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