Memory and acoustic learning: There is a theory that when we have to learn something like a telephone number that we store the number in the form of the mental sound that it makes i.e. acoustically. Participants have to learn lists of letters and then write them down after a delay. According to the acoustic coding theory participants will have more difficulty recalling letters which sound similarcompared to a list of words which sound quite different.
Improving memory: Imagery vs rehearsal: participants recall more words from a (20) word list when they use an imagery method (forming a vivid mental image and linking each item to the last in a dynamic fashion) than if they use either rehearsal (repeat each item until you hear the next) or no particular method (no prior instruction). Bower (1967); Paivio (1971).
The Role of Ambiguity: Give participants an ambiguous passage (which could mean anything) which they later have to recall. Some participants are given a title to the passage which makes it sensible while other participants are not. Those with the title should process the passage more meaningfully and therefore recall the passage more successfully.
Memory and levels of processing: Craik and Lockhart hypothesise that the deeper and more meaningfully we process information the better subsequent recall will be. Participants are asked to process words either at a basic structural level like 'is the word in capitals?' or at a level requiring the comprehension of meaning e.g. 'is it something you can eat'? Participants would be expected to recall those words processed more deeply more successfully. Craik and Tulving (1975).
Memory interference: This could be nicely applied to school revision. Participants have to learn for example a list of words and then recall them. Memory is interfered with by learning another list of words; some participants learn this interfering list before the main list and some learn it after the main list to see which has the greater effect.
Eye-witness reports: Loftus and Palmer (1974); Loftus and Zanni (1975). Participants asked how fast cars were going when they ‘smashed’ into each other, after viewing a car accident, report greater speeds than do participants asked the speed when they ‘hit’ each other. The former group are more likely to report seeing broken glass (when none is there) a week later.
Does background noise impair memory? This is good for those who argue that they can listen to their iPods and still study for their IB exams...
B. Perception, Thinking and Performance
Perceptual Sets: (a) This is based on the hypothesis that peoples' perception of colour depends on what they associate that colour with. For example, people associate tomatoes with being red so might perceive a stronger red colour than say a red hat which doesn't have the same associations. This practical involves showing participants pictures of fruit but with some of the colours mixed up. For example, participants are shown a picture of a red tomato and then a red banana and later have to judge the colours of each on a colour chart. b. Solving lists of anagrams is easier if all the words belong to a category (e.g. animals) than if they are random words. c. The participant is presented briefly with a list of words about a topic e.g. letter, post, stamp etc. which they have to write down - and then one of them is misspelled e.g. mael, and the hypothesis is that because a strong mental concept of the topic has been set up that they will write down the word as 'mail'.
Stroop effect: Participants take a lot longer to name the colour of ink that words are written in when the words themselves are contradictory colour words e.g. ‘red’ written in yellow ink – Dyer (1973).
Word and letter recognition: Visual search: Time taken to find X’s hidden in a four column list of similar shaped letters (Y, Z etc.) is longer than for lists with letters such as S, R, P etc. – Neisser’s (1964) feature analysis model of pattern recognition. Alternatively: Participants will take longer to find 0 among letters if it is called tzero’ than when it is called letter ‘oh’ and vice versa – Jonides & Gleitman (1972).
Heuristics: Tversky and Kahneman’s (1973) ‘availability’ hypothesis. If people recall more items from one set than from another they assume (heuristically) that there actually were more in the former set. Demonstrate this by giving participants a set of names to remember containing 19 very famous males and 20 not so famous females. Since participants tend to recall more male names they tend to judge that more males were in the list.
Anchoring Bias - Tversky and Kahneman. Someone's estimates of something will be greatly influenced by the way the question is structured. For example, people asked to estimate 1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8x9 give lower estimates than those estimating 9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1 because the earliest numbers affect perception of the answer. Similarly, if subjects are asked to guess the length of the river Vltava, their estimates will be influenced by a preceding question "is 2000 km (or 20,000km in the other condition) an over or underestimate of the length of the river Vltava". (Kahnemann and Tversky (1973) and Northcraft and Neale (1987)
C. Social Psychology
Person perception: Versions of Asch’s (1946) ‘warm’, ‘cold’ central traits paradigm can be implemented in many topical ways. Candidates give one description of a person to one group of participants and an identical version to another group varying only one characteristic, for instance ‘agrees with nuclear testing’ for one group and ‘disagrees....’ for the other. They then ask participants to assess the fictitious person on, say, liking or trustworthiness on a 10 point scale and look for differences between groups. Asch’s ‘primacy’ effect can also be tested using a list of descriptors – e.g. ‘orderly entertaining humble cool calculating moody’ in that order for one group and in the opposite order for another. Those hearing the positive traits first might rate the person more favourably on a ten point scale – Anderson and Barrios (1961). Luria and Rubin (1974) – participants given the same picture of a baby but one group told it is male the other female. Record differences in descriptions. It is best to give a checklist to participants containing ‘typical’ masculine and feminine traits – fine featured, strong, robust, sensitive, cute, and delicate.
Social facilitation: The idea is that people tend to perform better when in groups than when on their own. Subjects can be given tasks (e.g. word searches) either in groups or on their own to test this theory.
The halo effect: The effects of physical attractiveness: The halo effect states that attractive people are perceived as having more positive attributes.
Social inference : Do people over-estimate the number of beads in a jar if they see a list of other peoples "over-estimates?" i.e. do they base their estimates on other peoples' views?
Defensive attribution: The more serious an accident appears, the more people wish to assign responsibility to the driver.
Incentives and performance: It would seem logical that incentives should improve our performance. This could be tested by asking subjects to perform simple tasks like anagrams and measuring their speed of performance under different conditions. e.g. with or without an incentive like a Mars bar or alternatively by creating a fear of failing - to see whether positive or negative incentives are the most effective (e.g. telling the subjects that the results will be put on display and that the average number of completed anagrams in 5 minutes by 8 year olds is 15!) This could be developed to find whether the fear of failure impedes performance most on more complex cognitive tasks like anagrams rather than simple memory recall type tasks. Alternatively you could test the hypothesis that a group of subjects will perform better on a task if they have previously (based on an earlier test) been told they have scored highly, than a group who have been told (falsely) they have performed badly.