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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
ROSELLI, B. (1998). Memory Comprehension on a Flash Test. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 1. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 26, 2023 .

Memory Comprehension on a Flash Test
Missouri Western State University Department of Psychology

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
A wide body of research has examined what the capacity of short term memory is. It has also looked at the speed of what is being presented. It has been found that being shown a fast task improves the response. This study investigates how well people do at a memory task using a flash test. Each time they get a pattern right one more flash is added. The subjects will be split into two groups. Subjects in group 1 will be shown the task three times fast and one time slow. Subjects in group 2 will be shown the task three times slow and one time fast. I expect to find that people in group 1 will do poorly on the slow task after getting used to the fast task. I also expect to find that people in group 2 will do poorly on the fast task after getting used to the slow task.

The literature that I have reviewed has stated what the short- term memory span is. Researchers believe that people can remember seven plus or minus two items in their short-term memory. There are however ways that people can improve their memory capacity. First they can group items together that are alike or that follow each other. This ability is referred to as chunking. The longer a task is, the harder it is for the person to remember it. Around thirty seconds is the longest a person can hold data in his her short-term memory. Priming is another tool people use. This refers to a person getting used to a pattern that is repeated over and over. The person gets used to the task and improves because they have done it before.

Working memory is responsible for temporarily storing information and manipulating it to make it easier to remember. A frequent assumption is that processing and storage compete for a central limited-capacity workspace of central executive (Towse & Hitch, 1995). Traditional short-term memory tasks like digit spans only evaluate storage. Most researchers today believe that we need to learn the process by which memory works.

The speed with which a task is performed determines, in some sense, the outcome. A task done at a fast pace allows a person to remember more because of the short passage of time. There is less need for skills like chunking. When a task is done at a slow pace, a person must repeat it in his/her head while being shown additional items. They get locked into a pattern that is very hard to break. If they get something wrong, they are likely to repeat the same mistake.

Repetition priming refers to getting used to a pattern when the processing event is repeated. Repetition priming does not appear to depend on recall of the memory task. There have been many tasks to test this phenomenon. Some of these include word identification, word fragment completion, word meaning completion, and lexical decision. The findings from these studies are consistent in suggesting that performance facilitation from repeating a single processing event is long lasting (Woltz & Shute, 1993).

There seems to be obvious similarities between repetition priming and skill acquisition. Both represent performance facilitation from practice. Both seem to be long lasting. They are both resistant to interference. They both tend to be highly specific in nature. There are some sources of empirical evidence directly linking repetition priming to procedural skill acquisition. One study was conducted looking at amnesic patients and normal adults and memory. The amnesic patients did not seem to differ from the normal adults. This was interpreted as evidence for independent declarative and procedural memory systems that can be affected differently by neurological impairment (Towse & Hitch, 1995).

The purpose of this study is to test memory comprehension using a flash test. I plan to discover the effect of changing the speed of presentation on the number of items remembered. I will show one group of subjects a task three times fast and one time slow. I will show the second group of subjects the task three times slow and one time fast


I used 40 subjects from a general psychology class at Missouri Western State College. The students received extra credit for participating in the study. They all had approximately the same education background. They tended to be younger on the average. There were many different races of people in the study, but they were primarily white.

I used a computer program for the testing. The program is called "Three Hundred Great Games for the Macintosh." The company that makes the program is Micro Star. It was run on a Macintosh LCII computer. The only items that I used to record the data was a note pad and a pen. The subjects were tested in a research cubicle beside the psychology department office. The door was closed and locked to keep others from interrupting us during the testing. There was paper taped over the door to prevent light from coming into the room. The lights were turned off so that the only light in the room was coming from the monitor.

I had the subjects come in at their scheduled time and sit in a chair facing the monitor. I then turned off the lights so all they could see was the light coming off the monitor. I then asked them "have you ever played the game Simon?" If they said yes, I proceeded on. If they said no, I ran through the concept with them. They were then asked to play a memory game where you have to follow a set pattern of flashing lights. One square was added each time they got the pattern right. The subjects were then given either condition A or condition B. Condition A consisted of running through the program three times slow and one time fast. Condition B consisted of running through the program three times fast and one time slow. The fast pattern flashes five squares per second. The slow pattern flashes two squares per second. The number of squares they followed correctly was recorded. Their age and race was also recorded for possible future reference.


I calculated a t-test to compare the effects of speed of presentation on memory comprehension. I performed a 4x2 mixed design ANOVA. The subjects had 4 trials at two different speeds. There was a significant difference between the groups F(1,38)=1.082,p>.05. There was no significance between the speed of presentation F(3,114)=1.332,p>.05. There was a significance between the time by group interaction F(3,114)=3.657,p<.05.


I had started this experiment expecting to find that if a pattern was presented to a person fast, they would remember more than if the pattern was presented slow. I ended up finding that the speed by itself did not affect their memory score. I also discovered that the group that they were assigned to made no difference. There was a significance in the group by time interaction. It appears that during the three times fast one time slow trial there was a practice effect with the fast trials and an increase with the slow trial. During the three times slow one time fast trial there was a fatigue effect with the slow trials and no effect with the fast trial. It is interesting that the average score on the slow trials were the same if they no matter which condition they were in. There were some limitations in this study that I did. First the presentations of the flashes were not always the same pattern for every subject. There was a color that many of the subjects had trouble seeing. There was some noise that may have caused my subjects to lose concentration like doors being slammed shut. I did notice an interesting finding with the Black students I tested. They scored twice as well on the memory test. There were only three Black students in the study, so I can draw no conclusions with this small group. In the future it might be interesting to see if Black students do have better memory capacity skills.


Towse, J.N.,& Hitch, G.J. (1995). Is there a Relationship between Task Demand and Storage Space in Tests of Working Memory Capacity. 108-124

Woltz, D.J.,& Shute, V.J. (1993). Individual Differences in Repetition Priming and Its Relationship to Declarative Knowledge Acquisition. 333-359

Submitted 5/14/98 4:08:47 PM
Last Edited 9/14/2008 5:20:54 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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