Cognitive Psychology and Therapy 

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Cognitive psychology is the study of brain processing. The way humans think and why they think that way. An important part of the thinking process is memory. There are believed to be two different types of memory long-term and short-term. Short-term memory is the ability to recall information that was just introduced. Short-term memory or working memory is how we hold and process new information. As we get introduced to new environments and meet new people short-term memory is crucial in being able to function. Thus many experiments and theories have developed.

A commonly known theory that developed from the brown-peterson test is the decay theory of immediate knowledge. This theory first assumes that memory leaves a trace. A trace being a chemical or physical change. The theory then states that the inability to recall information or forgetting is the result of the rapid decline or fading of this trace.

A plethora of studies have supported this ideal that the longer the period of time is from when information was introduced the more difficult it is to recall it. Brown believed it was a simple explanation for why we forget and why we have a limit in memory. Others at the time had evidence supporting the theory of decay, supporting Brown’s theology. Conrad, 1957; Murdock, 1961; Peterson & Peterson, 1959)

Brown investigated this theory and debunked opposing ideals. He first did this by changing the intervals of time to very short time to a longer time, he also prevented rehearsal by asking the participants to do simple algebraic equation like counting down by three from 57. In his second trial he changed the order in which the participants saw the distraction item ( algebraic equation), the memory item ( consonants), and the empty delay. In his third trial he showed the memory item ( consonants ) and then had distraction item ( algebraic equation) set for a certain time. His third trial resulted in mixed results from trials 1 and 2. Today his procedures could be scrutinized and modern theories used against him ,overall, however his results supported the theory of memory decay.

The experiment will be conducted by using the Brown-Peterson memory generator, which shows participants three constants for two seconds after which they will be shown a number and asked to count down from that number by three for either 3 or 9 seconds and then asked to recall the original three constants. The two different times will test to see how long one can retain the information, while the algebraic equations prevent rehearsal.

The experimental design that was used was repeated measures. This design was used to be able to gauge a difference in the results. Although this design is more vulnerable to order effect this risk was counterbalanced by splitting the participants into two groups using random sampling and asking the fist half to recall the information in three seconds and then nine. While the other half was asked to do it in the reverse order.

Participants ranged from 16-18 years of age. All participants were either juniors or seniors in highschool, with a wide range of cultural background. Upperclassmen were chosen because of their higher level math skills, participants were asked to do simple algebraic equations and the researchers did not want the participants to go through undue stress. A total of 22 participants were used of those a mixed amount of female and males were present. Random sampling was used due to the fact the researchers wanted participants to have an equal chance to be placed in groups.

When participants entered the room paper was given to them, on this paper was a number ( 1-22 ) if the participants got a number that was even they were in group one, if the participants got a number that was odd they were in group two. This method easily allowed researchers to use random sampling. Researcher controlled order effect as mentioned above by splitting the participants in half and having the sequence in which conditions were performed reversed. Constancy of conditions was ensured by having both groups perform the experiment in the same room, while one group was participating the other one was asked to step out into the hall and vice-versa. Selection bias was also avoided by the researchers using random sampling.

Although the procedures were pretty straight forward researchers did not want to make the participants go through any undue stress, thus participants chosen has high level of math so the task would be easy. Deception was avoided as much as possible by having each participant sign a consent form with partial instructions, necessary to avoid demand characteristics but an ethical consideration still. Brown-Peterson memory generator - Essential to randomly generate constants and a number to which participants used to perform a simple algebraic equation. This generator also timed participants for either three or nine seconds. Lined paper- Essential for participants to write what they could recall, and for them to get randomly assigned into groups due to the fact researchers wrote numbers on them and participants came and grabbed one.

The results support the experimental hypothesis, the results show that the longer one has to wait to recall information just learned without the ability of rehearsal the least accurate and able they are to do so. In the data there were no major outliers allowing consistent results. This conclusion is also supported by the original study with its results beng supported by Conrad, 1957; Murdock, 1961.

A limitation of the experiment would be Hawthorne effect due to the fact the some of the participants had previous encounters with the researchers tempting the participants to act differently due to that fact. Another major limitation would be progressive errors, many of the participants did not understand what was being asked of them so the researchers had the participants do a practice round, although this decision allowed the participants to understand the procedures it also allowed them to practice the experimental skills before the experiment began. To gain better data a single-blind study would have been very beneficial for these conditions allowing the researchers to counterbalance the hawthorne effect presented. It also would have been very beneficial for the researchers to give more clear and concise instructions which would have eliminated the progressive error that occured.

Repeated measures allowed the researchers to compare the results of both groups. However a major limitation of using this method was order effect although the researchers counterbalanced that the participants were confused and splitting them into groups in order to avoid order effect added on to their confusion. Opportunity sampling was used for the convenience of the researches. It allowed the researchers to choose from classrooms that were close. However it limited the available sampling size.

The study support the decay theory of immediate knowledge. The results clearly show that when the participants had to wait longer to recall the information there was a significant decrease in ability and accuracy compared to when the participants had a shorter time before they had to recall. The participants were shown three constants, after which they were shown a number using that number they were asked to count down by threes until the screen went blank, after which they were asked to recall the three constants. These task relate to the theory first by denying the participants the rehearse the given constants and then by having a longer and shorter time in between recall.

The theory is pretty straight-forward however knowing how humans memorize and remember things could be beneficial in schools. Allowing admin to create curriculum that would help students truly retain information. The results strongly suggest that the longer someone must recall information without rehearsal their ability and accuracy significantly decrease.


Ricker, Timothy J., et al. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (2006), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2016,

McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 1970,    

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Cognitive Psychology And Therapy . (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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