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Short-Term Memory, Research Paper Example

Pages: 14

Words: 3730

Research Paper

Abstract

Short-term memory is a challenging phenomenon that is measured in different ways in order to determine its effectiveness. It is important for researchers and psychologists to establish greater insight into short-term memory in order to accomplish their understanding of the human mind and how memory operates in different individuals. Although there is some degree of consistency across individuals, there are dramatic differences as well that reflect the importance of specific indicators to determine if there are deficiencies in short-term memory that may impact individual outcomes. It is important to identify the resources that are available to measure short-term memory and to examine the impact of prior research in this area of study on how measurements are achieved to promote consistency and encourage effective results.

Introduction

Short-term memory represents a challenge to many researchers and psychologists seeking the answers to the human brain and its operation. It is important to identify some of the research that has been conducted throughout psychology and in other subject areas in order to determine how short-term memory impacts routine daily activities as well as the identification of disease and its potential impact on patients who face considerable challenges and other concerns that may impact their wellbeing over time. There are many possible explanations for short-term memory concerns and performance, and many of these are grounded in physical events that occur within the brain itself. For some individuals, however, it is likely that there is at least a partial psychological explanation for these events and how they impact the memory bank.

There are considerable biological and psychological concerns associated with short-term memory that should be addressed because they provide a basis for understanding the value of short-term memory and any deficiencies that might be present at any given point in time. For example, the visual cortex is critical to the measurement and effectiveness of visual short-term memory in that there are early visual observations made that have an impact (Offen et.al, 2009). Furthermore, it is likely that the visual cortex may play an important role in distinguishing between different types of signal detection as prefaced by individual demands and the ability to discriminate between different types of visual cues (Offen et.al, 2009). These elements are key contributors to the overall ability of the visual cortex to be an effective indicator of visual short-term memory in patients (Offen et.al, 2009).

Visual short-term memory is also impacted by the level of complexity as well as the ability to retrieve visual images during processing (Luria et.al, 2009). It is important to note that visual short-term memory is often impacted by the level of complexity of the visual cues and objects that are being viewed; therefore, it is likely that in some cases, patients will experience challenges to their visual short-term memory and may not recognize objects of greater complexity with rapid recall (Luria et.al, 2009). At the same time, visual short-term memory is known to be focused on a specific number and group of objects at any given time, rather than the features that they represent (Luria et.al, 2009). These conditions reflect the importance of visual short-term memory and its contribution to the short-term memory process (Luria et.al, 2009). However, differing explanations remain in regards to visual short-term memory and the impact of objects, their colors, features, and their complexity on these outcomes (Luria et.al, 2009).

With respect to verbal short-term memory, it is important to identify the areas where there are significant challenges associated with verbal acuity in this area. Prior research strongly suggests that verbal short-term memory is often impacted in a negative manner by interference and other related concerns that demonstrate decay (Berman et.al, 2009). However, interference is the primary focus and provides a basis for the explanation of different variables that impact short-term memory in different ways, such as the complexity of tasks and the influence of secondary tasks, all of which may contribute to interference and in turn, limited verbal short-term memory (Berman et.al, 2009). These considerations are challenging because they have a significant impact on individuals who gradually over time, find themselves experiencing a decline in verbal short-term memory that may have a permanent impact on their general wellbeing (Berman et.al, 2009). These considerations must reflect the importance of interference as a potential primary contributing factor in the challenges associated with verbal short-term memory and the measurable limitations that are often observed with this issue in many individuals (Berman et.al, 2009).

In a similar study with a focus on temporal decay, it was determined that verbal short-term memory is not significantly impacted by decay, but rather, interference in different forms, including time and other factors (Lewandowsky et.al, 2009). These challenges are further exacerbated by the complexity of daily living in the modern world and the challenges that many people face with respect to their ability to balance many tasks at the same time (Lewandowsky et.al, 2009). These determinations are challenging because they convey a difficult approach to short-term memory that is largely based upon the integration of such areas as technology and other complexities that interfere with daily living on a regular basis (Lewandowsky et.al, 2009). Under these conditions, it is important to identify the areas where there might be significant impacts on the value of short-term memory in recalling specific tasks when interference is high (Lewandowsky et.al, 2009). These concerns are relevant because they reflect an opportunity to convey new perspectives regarding short-term memory and the potentially significant impact of interference on this process (Lewandowsky et.al, 2009).

Short-term memory also warrants a greater understanding of the issues that are associated with attention as a possible contributing factor to this level of functionality (Lewis-Peacock et.al, 2012). In this context, it is observed that “refocusing attention towards a previously unattended memory item can reactivate its neural signature… even for small memory loads not exceeding the capacity limits of short-term memory, the active maintenance of a stimulus representation may not be necessary for its short-term retention” (Lewis-Peacock et.al, 2012, p. 61). With this framework in mind, it is important to identify areas where short-term memory might be negatively impacted by distractions and other variables that play a role in achieving short-term memory acuity and the effects of this practice on daily living (Lewis-Peacock et.al, 2012). From this perspective, when activities are disrupted for any reason, they often have an impact on short-term memory recall and the ability to refocus after a distraction has been identified (Lewis-Peacock et.al, 2012).

Methods and Results

Methods

In order to determine the efficacy of an individual’s short-term memory, six participants will be asked to memorize a set of numbers. The number set will then appear on a screen before them, and they will be required to choose whether or not the number appeared in the original set in addition to being tested regarding how long it takes them to recognize the number. There will be two independent variables in this experiment, including the size of the memory set, which will range from one to six digits; and the probes present, which include two levels in the form of positive and negative probes. The dependent variable that will be measured by this experiment is the time required for the participant to decide whether the number they encounter has appeared on their list of nine numbers. This is the reaction time and it will be measured using milliseconds.

The data will be sorted according to whether or not the participant is able to recall the data in addition to the mean time in milliseconds that is required to recall the number. This information will be collected in a chart that lists the participant numbers in the rows and the ability to recall the number in the columns. All data will be retrieved from the PSYCHMATE program. The data will be analyzed by conducting a 2 by 6 ANOVA on the amount of numbers recalled, therefore indicating the short-term memory of the participants. The results will be considered statistically significant if the calculated ANOVA statistic provides a p-value of less than 0.05. After the ANOVA statistic is calculated, the data will be plotted on a line graph to determine the differences in response time between the positive and negative probes and the relationship between response time and number set size. Microsoft Excel will be used to perform all descriptive statistic and graphical analyses.

Results

The 2 by 6 ANOVA was performed on the amount of numbers recalled which reflects the ability of the short-term memory of the participants. We found no significant effects on the method used by the participant to memorize the numbers (F(5, 96) = 1.65; p > .05) or the length of the list of digits (F(1, 96) = 1.65; p > .05). Furthermore, no interaction effect was detected (F(5, 96) = 0.07; p > .05).

Mean reaction time to response time in memory set size

Figure 1 Mean reaction time to response time in memory set size.

Figure 1 shows both the mean reaction time for response for each set of numbers provided to the participant in addition to the difference in reaction time for positive probes and negative probes. The error bars represent the standard deviations of response time for each memory size set. Ultimately, figure 1 graphically demonstrates that there is no major difference between reaction time for the positive and negative probes. Furthermore, it indicates that there is no real difference in reaction time for each memory set size.

The statistical and graphical results indicate that there is no relationship between memory set size and reaction time, and that there is no difference between tests that utilize positive and negative probes.

Discussion

The recognition of short-term memory as a critical variable is instrumental in determining how short-term memory is impacted by different circumstances and other environmental factors. The latter appears to be an inherent flaw with respect to how individuals observe and take in information and whether or not they are able to recall it effectively. These issues are important because they reflect the challenges associated with addressing short-term memory in the context of specific positive and negative probes. Since there appears to be no measurable difference in this area, it is likely that other factors may play a role when differences are observed in evaluating different objects and recalling them on a short-term basis.

With respect to the size of the sample and the reaction time, there was no measurable difference detected in this area. Therefore, it is entirely possible that other underlying factors play a role in facilitating how short-term memory is recalled in individuals and what constitutes any type of interference that might lead to distractions in recalling objects. It is important to recognize these differences and to determine how to approach these conditions in an effective manner in order to accomplish the desired measurements with short-term memory. This discussion demonstrates that there is much room for interpretation in regards to how short-term memory is achieved and the factors and other variables that play a role in determining how to improve short-term memory in individuals when it appears to be weakened by environmental and perhaps other underlying factors.

It is important to demonstrate that short-term memory may be influenced by a variety of factors, but that the most likely culprits that contribute to weakened short-term memory recall are based on interference from the outside world. Distractions interfere with daily living on a regular basis: phone calls, noises, driving, music, conversation, smartphones, iPads, computers, and other types of distractions are observed on a regular basis. Therefore, it is necessary to consider how these interferences might contribute to the ability of individuals to be effective in recalling information on a short-term basis. It is important for individuals to learn how to improve these skills if they recognize any possible weaknesses or a decline in this area. It is likely that these observations will be important contributors to the overall effectiveness of short-term memory as a means of achieving greater acuity in a given environment.

The complexities of daily living and the distractions that ensue also demonstrate the importance of new perspectives that are likely to be effective in enhancing outcomes for individuals and in enabling them to achieve greater visual and verbal short-term acuity. This is a difficult task to accomplish due to the tasks of daily living; however, it is essential to the ability to preserve memory and brain function for as long as possible. Interference appears to be one of the most common reasons behind any weaknesses observed in short-term memory; however, other factors may also contribute to this process. Nonetheless, the most frequent explanation is likely to be interference from the outside world as a primary contributor to this process. It is important to identify these challenges and to reflect upon the different perspectives that exist in regards to short-term memory in order to accomplish the objectives sought in the development and implementation of testing regarding short-term memory to measure its effectiveness.

In the context of short-term memory, it is also necessary to establish a greater understanding of the visual and verbal cues that might be missed when there complexities are increased, such as the necessity to multitask and to be effective in expressing short-term memory as necessary. Therefore, it is important for researchers and psychologists to continue to reflect upon the challenges associated with short term memory and the ability to achieve greater outcomes with testing and other measurements that may have a positive impact on short-term memory outcomes for individuals.

It is also important for researchers to recognize how daily distractions and the influence of technology and other visual aids might actually contribute rather than reduce interference with respect to short-term memory. It may perhaps be beneficial to examine these constructs in future studies through the use of specific technologies that are common throughout society, such as smartphones and iPads, as possible contributors to short-term memory weaknesses in some individuals. There are considerable issues that must be addressed in this context and that reflect the importance of measuring activity related to these technologies as a possible influence on short-term memory acuity and outcomes. It is important to identify how these distractions may interfere with short-term memory with respect to both visual and verbal acuity because these distractions may play a role in limiting short-term memory recall and capacity in some individuals, particularly those who are older. There must be an active consideration of these variables as a means of evaluating individuals and their short-term memory through testing and related measurements. These types of tests may have an important impact on biological and psychological research in this area due to significant changes in how individuals use these technologies as part of daily living and how they respond to different events within their daily lives that may impact how they process using their short-term memory. It is expected that these concerns will have a positive impact on testing outcomes in reference to their ability to shed some light on technology and its possible impact on short-term memory and the risk of interference in this process. It is important to identify these resources and to examine other alternatives that might play a role in achieving successful outcomes and in determining how to best move forward in measuring short-term memory in a practical manner to achieve the desired results.

Conclusion

Short-term memory testing and acuity continues to be a challenging issue and a primary concern for many researchers. From the researcher’s perspective, there are many variables to consider with respect to short-term memory that may have an impact, including sounds that are considered to be irrelevant yet contribute to distractions or interference in ascertaining short-term memory in some individuals (Klatte et.al, 2010). From this perspective, it may be argued that “The recall performance is specifically impaired by irrelevant background sounds with a changing state characteristic, i.e., sounds consisting of distinct auditory perceptive objects that vary consecutively. For example, irrelevant sounds consisting of different consonants or tones evoke an ISE, whereas steady state sounds such as continuous broadband noise or repetitions of single syllables or tones have a minor effect or no effect at all” (Klatte et.al, 2010). In this context, it is likely that distractions such as sounds will have an impact on short-term memory in some individuals and will provide perhaps a greater understanding of the issues that are relevant to researchers examining short-term memory (Klatte et.al, 2010). These efforts require a greater understanding of the roles and expectations of researchers as they are influenced by outside interferences and other distractions that may essentially reset an individual’s focus and contribute to limited short-term memory recall (Klatte et.al, 2010).

The concept of a three-fold model of memory should also be considered in any discussion of short-term memory because it conveys the importance of the focus of attention (FA) as one singular component of the progression from short-term to long-term memory (Nee and Jonides, 2011). These research-based contributions reflect the importance of specific factors that are instrumental in a discussion of short-term memory as a contributing factor to overall memory function (Nee and Jonides, 2011). It is believed that the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are critical contributing factors in determining the context of short-term memory and related measurements (Nee and Jonides, 2011). The researchers conclude that the continued growth of and expansion of viable short-term memory is supported by the action of the hippocampus and that this structure is critical to the expansion of short-term memory in many individuals with respect to retrieval and focus (Nee and Jonides, 2011). Furthermore, the hippocampus also plays a role in contributing to long-term memory (Nee and Jonides, 2011).

The concept of working memory is worthy of consideration in addressing short-term memory because it reflects the relationship between working memory capacity and how individuals respond to events that require short-term memory recall (Oztekin and McElree, 2010). This research also reflects the importance of new perspectives that are instrumental in supporting how short-term memory is understood and how the process works (Oztekin and  consideration of low spans as being more susceptible to interference (Oztekin and McElree, 2010). In this context, it is observed that “high spans use attentional control to compensate for the negative effects of proactive interference on their memory performance, whereas low spans do not normally allocate their attention to resist interference” (Oztekin and McElree, 2010, p. 383). Therefore, it is necessary to address the challenges of short-term memory as a possible consequence of working memory deficits (Oztekin and McElree, 2010).

Similarly, a study of working memory reflects the overall importance of the hippocampus as a contributing factor in this process (Baddeley et.al, 2010). The study discovered that although there is evidence to suggest this claim, the hippocampus does not have any real impact on working memory and its contribution to short-term recall and processing (Baddeley et.al, 2010). These factors represent an opportunity to explore the different areas of short-term memory and the influence of working memory on this process in order to determine effectiveness and overall direction in research regarding this topic (Baddeley et.al, 2010). It is believed that the hippocampus does not have this type of impact; therefore, it does not specifically contribute to the short-term functionality of working memory (Baddeley et.al, 2010).

Finally, it is worth noting that the process of disease development in the human brain may often contribute to short-term memory deficits in many patients. Specifically, the role of Alzheimer’s disease continues to increase in scope and relevance because it has a measurable impact on cognitive function and behavior (Parra et.al, 2010). The concept of short-term memory binding is impacted by this disease and the ability to perform short-term memory recall in the desired manner (Parra et.al, 2010). Therefore, it is important to identify the areas where there are significant contributing factors associated with short-term memory and the influence of Alzheimer’s disease (Parra et.al, 2010). These factors are likely to be instrumental in short-term memory impairment in some individuals and may have a significant impact on this process on a gradual basis that becomes increasingly noticeable and fragile (Parra et.al, 2010).

The factors that are associated with the testing of short-term memory recall require an effective understanding of some of the challenges and limitations that exist in this area in order to capture the relevance of individual cognitive and other deficits that may be underlying factors in short-term memory deficits. Therefore, it is expected that individuals who exhibit different levels of short-term memory recall will be impacted by these differences and their role in shaping outcomes. It is important to identify research-related objectives that have an impact on short-term memory testing and measurements in order to accomplish the desired objectives in analysis and recall.

References

Baddeley, A., Allen, R., and Vargha-Khadem, F. (2010). Is the hippocampus necessary for visual and verbal binding in working memory? Neuropsychologia, 48, 1089-1095.

Berman, M.G., Jonides, J., and Lewis, R.L. (2009). In search of decay in verbal short-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35(2),  317-333.

Klatte, M., Lachmann, T., Schlittmeier, S., and Hellbruck, J. (2010). The irrelevant sound effect in short-term memory: is there developmental change? European Journal of Cognitive Psychology¸ 22(8), 1168-1191.

Lewandowsky, S., Oberauer, K., and Brown, GDA. (2008). No temporal decay in verbal short-term memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(3), 120-126.

Lewis-Peacock, J.A., Drysdale, A.T., and Postle, B.R. (2012). Neural evidence for a distinction between short-term memory and the focus of attention. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(1), 61-79.

Loftus, E. F. Eyewitness Testimony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979. Print.

Luria, R., Sessa, P., Gotler, A., Jolicoeur, P., and Dell’Acqua, R. (2009). Visual short-term memory capacity for simple and complex objects. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22(3), 496-512.

Nee, D.E., and Jonides, J. (2011). Dissociable contributions of prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus to short-term memory: evidence for a 3-state model of memory. Neuroimage, 54(2), 1540-1548.

Offen, S., Schluppeck, D., and Heeger, D.J. (2009). The role of early visual cortex in visual  short-term memory and visual attention. Vision Research, 49(10), 1352-1362.

Oztekin, I., and McElree, B. (2010). Relationship between measures of working memory capacity and the timecourse of short-term memory retrieval and interference  resolution. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition,  36(2), 383-397.

Parra, M.A., Abrahams, S., Logie, R.H., Mendez, L.G., Lopera, F., and Salla, S.D. (2010). Visual short-term memory binding deficits in familial Alzheimer’s disease. Brain, 133(9), 2702-2713.

St. James, James D., Schneider, Walter, & Eschman, Amy. PsychMate Student Guide, Version 2.0: Experiments for Teaching Psychology. Pittsburgh, PA: Psychology Software Tools, Print.

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