Outline and Evaluate Research Into the Duration, Capacity, and Encoding of Information in Short-Term Memory

“Outline and evaluate research into the duration, capacity, and encoding of information in short-term memory.”
Peterson and Peterson conducted a study of the duration of short-term memory. The experimenter said a consonant syllable to the participant, followed by a three-digit number, for example: IDM 302. The consonant syllable had to not have a meaning, for example: not BBC. Immediately after hearing this, the participant had to count backwards from this number in 3’s or 4’s until told to stop. There was a time interval of either 3,6,9,12,15 or 18 seconds. The participant then had to recall the consonant syllable they were told. The findings were that participants remembered 90% when there was a 3 second interval and 2% when there was an 18 second interval. This study concluded that short term memory lasts approximately 20 seconds at the most and therefore not very long.
One study has challenged this evidence. Marsh et al’s study has suggested that when participants do not expect to be tested after this interval, forgetting may occur after just 2 seconds. This study shows that our understanding of the duration of short term memory may not be as clear-cut as first thought. We may now also argue in comparison to this study, Peterson and Peterson’s participants were relying on more than short-term memory alone because they knew they were going to be asked to recall the items after an interval filled with a distracting activity.

George Miller wrote a memorable article about the capacity of short-term memory, called ‘The magic number seven plus or minus two’. In this article, he reviewed psychological research and concluded that the span of immediate memory is 7, people can cope reasonably well with counting 7 dots flashed onto a screen by not many more than this. He concluded that it’s the same if you’re asked to recall musical notes, digits, letters and even words. Miller also found that people can recall 5 words as well as they can recall 5 letters. This is...