Capacity Of Memory Among Teenagers Computer Science Essay

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In my essay, I am going to study the capacity of memory among teenagers. I have examined two age groups: 13-14 and 18-19 years secondary school students. I was interested whether there is a significant difference between these two groups regarding the capacity of their short-term memory. I have also examined whether the language they used (Hungarian, their mother tongue and English, their second language) had an effect on their short-term memory.

My pre-supposition is that older students will be more successful in recalling the original sentence, and both groups will achieve better results in their mother tongue than in their second language.

As Cowan (2005) explains, in 1974 Baddeley and Hitch proposed a model of working memory in order to describe an accurate model of short-term memory. This model consisted of three parts: the central executive (it controls the flow of information) and two so-called 'slave systems': the phonological loop (verbal domain) and the visuo-spatial sketchpad (visuo-spatial domain). These are short-term storage systems dedicated to a content domain. As Cowan (2005) also discusses that in 2000 Baddeley himself expanded this model and by adding a third slave system, the episodic buffer (that links information between the domains), he created the dominant view in the field of working memory. The whole system can be visualised this way:

As Baddeley, Gathercole and Papagno (1998) discusses, the phonological loop has a very important role both in language acquisition and foreign language learning. They claimed there there is a strong connection between the capacity of the phonological loop and the improvement of the lexicon.

According to Németh et al. (2000), the phonological loop can also help diagnosing SLI (Specific Language Impairment) or dyslexia.

2.2 Magical numbers

Miller (1956) discusses memory span, which refers to the longest list of the items that someone can repeat right after hearing it. He claims that among young adults memory span (or the "magical number") is about 7 items. However, he adds that memory span could be measured in terms of chunks and there is some difference between different items from different chunks. In Hayes's (as cited in Miller, 1956) opinion the memory span for word is five. Cowan (2005) argues for a "magical number" around four. He claims, that "it seems to me … that, when the grouping or chunking of stimulus materials is known, the average adult can retain three to four chunks in working memory" (p. vii).

Oberauer and Kliegl (2001) had research on the effect of age difference on the working memory. They examined young adults (mean age is 19.1) and old adults (mean age is 68.8). They found that old adults have more difficulties with their memory. Old adults reached lower scores with more complex tasks than young adults. They also needed more time to complete the tasks.

3. Method

The data were collected in Hungary from 23 older teenagers (18-19 years) and 26 younger teenagers (13-14 years). All the teenagers go to the same secondary school, they all share the same mother tongue (Hungarian), and all of them are taught English as their second language by the same teacher. Older teenagers learn another foreign language as well (German, Italian, Russian or French) while the younger students do not.

They were dictated 15 sentences in English and 15 sentences in Hungarian. They were not allowed to write simultaneously to dictation. Every sentence was read after all of the students had finished writing the previous one. Each sentence was read once, by the same teacher, using the same intonation.

As the two groups are not at the same level in English (the older students are at B2-C1 level, while the younger students are at A2-B1 level), I chose sentences that can be easily understood by both groups (see Appendix).

I used various kinds of sentences (affirmative, negative and interrogative) with different lengths. The shortest English sentence contained 5 words and the longest contained 11 words. The shortest Hungarian sentence was 4 words long and the longest was 11 words long.

4. Results

The memory of the students was examined by counting the number of words they had remembered from a certain sentence. Spelling mistakes (both in English and in Hungarian) were ignored, just like third person singular -s in English and usage of -ba/-be suffix instead of -ban/-ben suffix in Hungarian (e.g. családban → családba, hajnalban → hajnalba) as it is a tendency in the language, but I counted as a mistake the following:

missing word

additional word

tense problems (e.g. When I got home → When I get home)

change in word order (e.g. father's brother → brother's father)

change of word to a synonym (e.g. mum → mother)

Figure 1 shows the results of the older group in English (Roman numbers refer to the students, bolded Arabic numbers to the ordinals of the sentences and non-bolded Arabic numbers to the number of mistakes students made):

Sentence No.

Students

I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI. XII. XIII. XIV. XV. XVI. XVII. XVIII.XIX. XX. XXI.XXII.XXIII.

Average

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,087

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,304

3

2

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0,304

4

2

1

0

1

1

3

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

3

0

1

0

0

0

0

0,783

5

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

2

0

0

1

1

0

1

0,435

6

8

1

1

0

1

5

0

1

2

1

1

0

0

0

8

10

8

0

1

3

10

8

1

3,043

7

4

8

0

5

0

8

1

1

2

1

1

0

0

0

1

5

0

1

1

2

1

0

1

1,870

8

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,087

9

1

2

0

1

0

1

0

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,435

10

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

1

0

1

0,174

11

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,174

12

4

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,478

13

5

1

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,609

14

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,043

15

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

0

0

2

0

0

0,522

Total

39

15

1

8

2

21

2

4

6

2

5

0

0

0

10

35

25

2

4

6

16

8

4

0,623

Figure 2 shows the result of the older group in Hungarian:

Sentence No.

Students

I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI. XII. XIII. XIV. XV. XVI.XVII.XVIII.XIX. XX.XXI.XXII.XXIII.

Average

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,087

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

4

0

0

2

1

0

3

1

3

0

1

1

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0,696

5

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,261

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

7

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

8

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

9

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

10

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

11

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

12

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

13

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

14

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

15

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

Total

0

0

5

1

0

3

1

6

0

1

2

0

1

2

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0,070

Figure 3 shows the result of the younger group in English:

Sentence No.

Students

Average

1

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

2

0

0,269

2

5

0

1

1

0

0

1

0

2

3

1

1

4

0

1

1

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

0

1

0

0,962

3

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0,192

4

7

0

1

5

3

2

1

1

0

5

0

2

4

1

3

5

0

0

4

5

0

0

3

2

3

0

2,192

5

5

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

1

4

0

3

4

1

0

2

4

0

0

2

0

2

0

1,231

6

7

2

2

2

1

1

1

3

1

2

1

2

7

0

5

6

2

3

3

6

0

1

5

2

5

1

2,731

7

6

2

1

4

1

1

5

0

0

2

1

4

9

3

4

6

0

3

3

9

0

0

3

2

3

1

2,808

8

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,192

9

9

4

0

1

1

0

1

0

2

1

0

2

4

0

5

5

5

2

5

5

0

0

6

5

9

3

2,885

10

1

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

1

1

0

0,423

11

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0,077

12

2

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

2

0

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,423

13

6

1

1

4

1

1

2

0

2

0

4

0

3

3

3

6

1

1

3

4

1

0

5

3

3

0

2,231

14

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0,308

15

6

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

1

2

3

0

1

1

0

0

3

4

0

0

0

0

2

0

1,000

Total

69

10

8

21

8

5

12

5

8

17

9

15

41

7

26

36

9

10

23

45

1

1

28

15

32

5

1,195

Figure 4 shows the result of the younger group in Hungarian:

Sentence No.

Students

Average

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,038

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

4

2

0

2

3

2

3

0

2

4

4

5

0

4

2

3

1

2

3

3

0

2

3

2

2

5

2

2,346

5

0

0

3

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,269

6

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,115

7

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

8

0

0

0

0

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,231

9

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,038

10

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

11

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

12

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

13

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0,038

14

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,115

15

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0,000

2

0

5

3

8

6

0

2

4

5

5

0

8

2

4

1

3

3

3

2

2

4

2

2

5

2

0,213

If we compare the average of mistakes in both groups, we can see that older students made fewer mistakes both in English and in Hungarian. Regarding English, the average number of mistakes is twice as many among the younger participants (1,195) as among the older ones (0,623). However, there are some interesting points. There were some sentences (No. 3, No. 6 and No. 12) that seem to be more difficult for the older group than the younger group.

Regarding Hungarian, the average number of mistakes is three times as many among the younger students (0,213) as among the older students (0,070).

In English No. 6 turned out to be the most problematic sentence for the older group (mean of mistakes 3,043). Only 6 students out of 23 could reproduce it without any mistakes. Two students made 10 mistakes in this 11 words long sentence (they only remembered the first word), and further four students made 8 mistakes. There were five correct sentences. This sentence contains two clauses, just like the other 11 words long sentence (No. 7), which contains half as many mistakes as this one.

Among younger students there were fewer mistakes in No. 6 (mean of mistakes 2,731). It turned out to be less difficult than No. 7 or No. 9. The maximum was 7 mistakes (made by two students), but there were only two students without any mistake in this sentence. No. 7 was a bit more difficult for the younger group (mean 2,808). There were two students with 9 mistakes and two other students with 6 mistakes in it. There were 5 completely correct sentences. The older group had a better result regarding this sentence (mean 1,870), although there were also two students with a quite high number of mistakes: they made 8 mistakes. The most difficult sentence for the younger group was No. 9 (mean 2,885). Two people made 9 mistakes (out of 10 words), but there were 6 correct sentences.

Among the older students there were three people who did not make any mistakes. The biggest number of mistakes was 39 and there was another student with 35 mistakes. Among the younger students there was not anyone without any mistakes, the best result was 1 mistake (by two students). The biggest number of mistakes was 69, and the second biggest was 45. There was no sentence that could be recalled without any mistakes by all members of any groups.

In Hungarian the results were far better. The most difficult sentence was No. 4 for both groups (it contains 11 words). The older students made 0,696 mistakes in it. The highest score was three (made by two students) and there were 12 correct sentences. Among the younger students there were almost four times more mistakes in this sentence. The biggest number of mistakes was 5 (made by two students), and there were only four people without mistakes in it.

Among the students of the older group the biggest amount of mistakes made by one person was 6, and there were 12 people without any mistakes in the sentences. Among younger students, the highest score was 8 (made by two students) and there were only three students without any mistakes.

5. Conclusion

The finding of the present study is that students between 17 and 19 have a bigger short-term memory capacity than their 13-14 years old fellow students both in their mother tongue and their second language. Both group had less mistakes in their mother tongue than in English.

This study has some limits that could be extended in the future. I did not have the possibility to examine different age groups at the same level of proficiency in English or different proficient groups of the same age group. The results could also be affected by the structure of the sentences (e.g. number of clauses) and collocations (e.g., computer games, turned on the TV) I used.

Appendix

English sentences

I went home by bus yesterday.

Anne is going to cook a delicious dinner.

Where do they go for a holiday?

He isn't as strong as my father's brother.

When I got home, I turned on the TV.

While I was playing with computer games, my mum arrived home.

She will never have a boyfriend, because she never goes out.

Are you listening to me?

Peter will buy a car if he wins the lottery.

I've read this book.

We learn English at school.

My favourite subjects are maths and P.E.

Could you open the window of your room, please?

He doesn't like Chinese food.

We often play football with my friend at weekends.

Hungarian sentences

Marika néni sokszor ad ötöst a szorgalmi feladatokra.

A kutyám néha bent alszik a szobámban.

Apa sosem iszik kávét reggel.

A dinoszauruszok többmillió évvel ezelÅ‘tt kihaltak egy hirtelen jött klímaváltozás miatt.

A házimunka elvégzése a legtöbb családban az anya feladata.

Mivel idén télen hideg volt, sok a kátyú az utakon.

Nem egészséges sok hamburgert enni.

Gyakran szoktad meglátogatni a vidéken élÅ‘ nagynéniket és nagybácsikat?

Ne feledkezz meg arról, hogy ma is van edzés.

Tegnap el kellett mennem a húgomért az óvodába.

Mindig megírod a leckédet?

Kislányuk született ma hajnalban.

Norbi még ma át fogja küldeni a képeket.

A postás minden délelÅ‘tt bedobja a leveleket a postaládába.

Néha az ember szívesebben maradna otthon.

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