Thinking About How We Think….and Acquire Knowledge

Thinking About How We Think….and Acquire Knowledge

AP Psychology students are currently completing a unit on cognition which involves the processing of memory, acquisition of language, thinking and problem solving and intelligence and intelligence testing. While students have generally been able to apply knowledge of what they have been studying in the course so far, this unit seems to particularly resonate with them. In learning about how we encode information, the difference between short and long-term memory, strategies like chunking and mnemonic aids to help

keep information longer in short-term memory and what affects what we remember and what we forget, students are beginning to see its implications for themselves as learners - ie. how they study, take notes and attend to information that is being presented. 

One classroom experiment we performed had to do with recognizing that there are limits to what our working memory (short term) can store - a maximum of between 7- 9 words on a list (in the literature referred to as 'Magic Number 7 plus or minus two'), and that where the data appears in the sequence also influences what we remember.

In our activity, the longer the list got, the more difficult it became for the students to retrieve. No one was able to remember more than 5 pieces of data with the longer lists, whether they were presented orally or visually.  

Now it's your turn!

Have someone read the first line slowly, only once and then you write down the letters in the order that you remember.

Repeat this procedure for the next longer list, then the next and so on. 

J, N, A, X, G
S, D, Q, B, F, A
I, Y, V, M, R, L, W
G, K, E, Z, H, B, A, X,
D, P, B, F, I, V, G, E, C
P, Y, N, J, S, E, D, T, Q, F
M, Z, T, U, J, W, L, N, Y, O, G   

So..what happened? How many letters were you able to recall when the number of letters exceeded 7, 8 or 9?

Welcome to AP Psych!

Charmaine Quamina
Grades: 11 & 12
Class: AP Psychology
Current Unit: Cognition