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Validity of Animacy as a Mnemonic Dimension

3581 words (14 pages) Essay in Psychology

13/04/18 Psychology Reference this

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  • Lomasi Fogarty 

Abstract

The objective of this report was to agree or disagree with the theory that animacy is an important mnemonic dimension. It was hypothesised that this was the case and animacy helps people with recall. First year students of 1001PSY Introduction to Cognitive and Biological Psychology, participated in an experiment where they were to remember words that appeared on a PowerPoint. A distraction task was applied to control for maintenance rehearsal and recency effect. The results from the experiment showed that animate words were more correctly recalled than inanimate words. It can be concluded that the hypothesis was supported and animacy is a mnemonic device as it is an aid for memory.

The Validity of Animacy as a Mnemonic Dimension

The purpose of this report is to validate whether animacy is an important dimension in regards to memory and mnemonics. Memory is the process of which information is acquired and modified so that knowledge can be stored, retrieved and used (Foster & Wilson, 2005). The memory process starts with encoding the information, followed by storage, and retrieval. Encoding involves the information getting into the memory, and forming a memory code. Storage is where the information is kept in the memory, and retrieval is the process of accessing the stored information at a later time. This occurs in between short-term memory (STM), and long-term memory (LTM).

The serial position effect is the idea that the position in a list to be remembered, can have an effect on the correct recall. The usual pattern for this is that the first few items (primacy), and the last few items (recency), on the list, are better remembered than the stimuli located in the middle. The primacy effect has emerged due to the first few items being successfully transferred to stable, long-term memory, whereas the recency effect is a result of the stimuli functioning in short-term memory (Wiswede, Russeler, & Munte, 2007). The term mnemonics is used to describe a variety of aids for memory that can result in an improvement in the retention and learning of information. The basic principles within this technique are recoding, meaningfulness, and organisation (Dickel, 1983).

Animacy is acknowledged to be a foundational dimension for mnemonics, and plays a helpful role in regards to memory. Animacy is the concept best defined as living organisms. According to Nairne, VanArsdall, Pandeirada, Cogdill, and LeBreton (2013), for successful reproduction and survival of the human race, it is essential to distinguish between animate and inanimate things. Evolutionary psychologists would think it fit to suggest that selectively tuning and remembering animate things is an essential process done by the memory system as predators, as well potential mating partners, are animate beings and aid with the continuation of human existence.

Little attention has been brought to mnemonic dimensions when studying memory. As Nairne et al. (2013) state, “the focus tends to be exclusively on the ‘how’ of remembering”. The recognition of the origins of cognitive systems can create a basis for the discovery of empirical phenomena.

It is theorised that animate words are more likely to be recalled than inanimate words, and therefore is an important dimension for memory. This report aims to support or disagree with the idea that animacy is a mnemonic dimension. It was hypothesised that more of the animate words in this experiment were correctly recalled than the inanimate words.

Method

Participants

In the 1001PSY Introduction to Cognitive and Biological Psychology tutorials, 386 (279 female) first year undergraduate psychology students at Griffith University participated in this experiment (Age Range= 16-55 years old; Mage= 19.79, SD= 5.39). Participation was encouraged however there was no incentive.

Design

This experiment was a within-subject design as everyone was tested on animacy. In this experiment, the one independent variable was the words that were to be remembered. This variable had two levels, animate and inanimate. The only dependant variable was memory; how many words of each level of the independent variable could be remembered by each participant. The serial position effect was acknowledged and controlled but was not measured.

Materials

There were two types of stimuli presented in this experiment. The main experiment was presented on a white PowerPoint slide with 24 words (12 animate and 12 inanimate) and were on a slide each. 2 buffer words were also used at the beginning and the end of the slides but were not identifiable from the other words by the appearance. The words were in black, Calibri (Headings) in size 115 font in the middle of the slide. Every 5 seconds the slides would change and a new word would appear. The exact words used are presented in Table 2 (Appendix A).

The participants were supplied with a scoring sheet to tick off what words they remembered (Refer to Appendix B). The second stimuli was the distractor experiment, which consisted of a similar presentation. 20 varying numbers (11 odd, 9 even), were presented on a PowerPoint with white slides. The numbers were on the middle of a slide each, in the same font but size 166. The numbers used in the distractor experiment are presented in Table 3 (Refer to Appendix C). The digits were presented on a slide each; one at a time for three seconds.

Procedure

The instructions were given by the experimenter, which in this case, is the tutor of the class. Once all the participants were all seated at a table, they were asked avoid any sort of implement to help record the words, and were asked to remember as many words that appeared as they could. The PowerPoint and the tutor notified the students when the words were going to appear. Once the last word was reached, the tutor as well as the PowerPoint notified the students that it was the end. The distraction task began after the last word appeared.

This task had a designated time for 1 minute and began with a slide of the PowerPoint that included instructions that were also read out by the tutor. The participants were required to indicate whether the numbers changing on the board were odd or even on a supplied response sheet (Refer to Appendix D). Results for this task were then checked. At the end of this instruction, the response sheet for recalling the words was supplied. It was asked of the students to write down as many words of the first task as they could with a time allowance of 4 minutes. To check what words they remembered, they were given a scoring sheet in which they could tick off the words they correctly recalled. Once the 4 minutes were over, the students compared their recalled words with a scoring sheet (Refer to Appendix B). The number of correctly recalled ‘animate’ and ‘inanimate’ words, were added and the total for each was written down. Additional information like their age and gender was also collected. Only the scoring sheets for the word recalling task were handed up to the tutor.

Results

The amount of which each word was recalled is presented in Table 2 (Appendix A). The total number of words correctly recalled for both animate and inanimate categories are in Table 1. The raw data in both these tables shows that in this experiment, more of the animate words were remembered than the inanimate words. It was also noted in Table 1, that in regards to the serial position effect, the first 6 words, were more remembered than the last 6, and the last 6 were more remembered than the middle 12. This table also shows that the animate words were more remembered in each serial position class except the first 6, where the inanimate words were remembered 19.4 more times than the animate. The serial position effect is evident in Figure 1, where more words were correctly recalled in the first and last 6 for both animate and inanimate words.

Table 1

Total No. of Words Recalled.

 

Total Number

 

Inanimate

1776

Animate

1983

Figure 1. No. of words recalled for each serial position class.

Discussion

This experiment has supported the theory that animacy is a mnemonic dimension as more animate words were more correctly recalled than inanimate words. In this study, the aim was to find whether animacy was a mnemonic in which it is easier to remember than inanimate words. The prediction that animate words are more remembered than inanimate words came from the evolutionary perspective where humans remember animate stimuli over inanimate stimuli because it was helpful for survival and reproduction. This experiment showed that animate words were more correctly recalled than inanimate words. The theoretical basis of this prediction was from work done by Nairne et al. (2013), in which they stated that animate words would be more easily recalled due to the fact that they helped humans survive and reproduce.

Although buffer words were used to control the primacy and recency effect, the results still show that the first and last few words were more remembered than those that appeared in the middle of the list. Likewise with the distractor task, it was put into place to control maintenance rehearsal but the results still show that the last few words were more remembered than the words in the middle. This however may be explained with the last few words easily being stored in the short-term memory (Wiswede, et al. 2007).

A methodological concern with this experiment could be that the tutors were different throughout the classes and may have altered the instructions, this could include longer time on a word. Along with this, another concern could be that the participants could have written down words that they didn’t actually remember. These could have compromised the eternal validity affect the end result in measuring animacy as a mnemonic device.

From this information, further research can be done to find if there are differences in memory within social demographics and improve knowledge on mnemonics.

References

Dickel, M. J. (1983). Principles of encoding mnemonics. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57(1), 111-118. doi: 10.2466/pms.1983.57.1.111

Foster, J. K., & Wilson, A. C. (2005). A refined model of sleep and the time course of memory formation. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 28(1), 71-72. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X05290027

Nairne, J. S., VanArsdall, J. E., Pandeirada, J. N. S., Cogdill, M., & LeBreton, J. M. (2013). Adaptive memory: The mnemonic value of animacy. Psychological Science, 24(10), 2099-2105. doi: 10.1177/0956797613480803

Wiswede, D., Russeler, J., & Munte, T. F. (2007). Serial position effects in free memory recall—An ERP-study. Biological Psychology, 75(2), 185-193. doi: doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.02.002

Appendix A

Table 2

List of word type and presentation order

Presentation Order

Animate

Inanimate

Number of Times Recalled.

1

 

Flute

285

2

Dentist

 

237

3

 

Bowl

235

4

Chicken

 

202

5

Chief

 

204

6

 

Hut

181

7

 

Belt

115

8

 

Horn

67

9

 

Novel

125

10

Herring

 

204

11

Crow

 

106

12

Beetle

 

89

13

Mouse

 

117

14

 

Plane

117

15

 

Shovel

97

16

Kid

 

186

17

 

Skirt

171

18

Tiger

 

171

19

 

Shoe

129

20

 

Train

108

21

 

Trumpet

146

22

Mosquito

 

156

23

Priest

 

154

24

Snake

 

157

Appendix B

SCORING SHEET

Logo_2deckBW70mm

1001PSY Mt Gravatt

Memory of animate vs inanimate words experiment worksheet

Scoring Sheet Age:_____________ Gender:____________

Word

Animate or Inanimate

Recalled

Dolphin

Buffer word

 

Book

Buffer word

 
  1. Flute

Inanimate

 
  1. Dentist

Animate

 
  1. Bowl

Inanimate

 
  1. Chicken

Animate

 
  1. Chief

Animate

 
  1. Hut

Inanimate

 
  1. Belt

Inanimate

 
  1. horn

Inanimate

 
  1. novel

Inanimate

 
  1. herring

Animate

 
  1. crow

Animate

 
  1. beetle

Animate

 
  1. mouse

Animate

 
  1. plane

Inanimate

 
  1. shovel

Inanimate

 
  1. kid

Animate

 
  1. skirt

Inanimate

 
  1. tiger

Animate

 
  1. shoe

Inanimate

 
  1. train

Inanimate

 
  1. trumpet

Inanimate

 
  1. mosquito

Animate

 
  1. priest

Animate

 
  1. snake

Animate

 

Dress

Buffer word

 

teacher

Buffer word

 

Total Animate words recalled: ________

Total Inanimate words recalled: __________

 

Appendix C

Table 3

List of Numbers from Distraction Task

Order

Number

Odd/Even

1

9

Odd

2

6

Even

3

8

Even

4

4

Even

5

1

Odd

6

5

Odd

7

8

Even

8

7

Odd

9

2

Even

10

9

Odd

11

8

Even

12

3

Odd

13

5

Odd

14

5

Odd

15

5

Odd

16

3

Odd

17

4

Even

18

1

Odd

19

8

Even

20

4

Even

Appendix D

ODD EVEN RESPONSE SHEET

Logo_2deckBW70mm

1001PSY Mt Gravatt

1001PSY MG Introduction to Cognitive and Biological Psychology

Odd-Even Task

Worksheet

Please tick () whether the displayed number is either odd of even

Order

Odd?

Even

1

   

2

   

3

   
     

4

   

5

   

6

   

7

   

8

   

9

   

10

   

11

   

12

   

13

   

14

   

15

   

16

   

17

   

18

   

19

   

20

   
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