This article applies to:
Experiment Author: Adapted from STEP and used with permission of Brian MacWhinney
Participants were presented with between 1 and 4 pairs of consonants written in black (excluding Y) and asked to recall those pairs. There was either an intervening task involving the presentation of pairs of stimuli in red that were explicitly not part of the recall task or no intervening task, though in both cases there was a gap of 5 seconds before recall.
In the original experiment, Brown found that even when the number of items to be recalled was well within the standard memory span, participants could not remember all of the items if rehearsal was prevented.
This experiment presents users with 8 randomly selected trials. A single trial presents between one to four letter pairs consecutively, followed by zero to five number pairs. A text box will appear at the end of each trial and participants are asked to recall each letter pair shown at the beginning of the trial. A keyboard is required to complete this experiment.
Brown, John (1958). "Some Tests of the Decay Theory of Immediate Memory." Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 10, 12-21.
Cited Experiment Abstract
The hypothesis of decay of the memory trace as a cause of forgetting has been unpopular. The reasons for this unpopularity are criticized and a theory of the memory span, based on this hypothesis, is put forward. Three experiments which test the hypothesis are described. In each, two kinds of stimuli are presented to the subject, viz., "required" stimuli, which he attempts to remember, and "additional" stimuli, to which he merely makes responses. The first experiment will show that even when the number of required stimuli is well below the memory span, forgetting occurs if the presentation of additional stimuli delays recall for several seconds. The second shows that the effect of the additional stimuli depends only slightly on their similarity to the required stimuli; it also shows that their effect is negligible when they precede, instead of follow, the required stimuli. The third shows that the effect of additional stimuli interpolated before recall remains considerable even when there is an interval of several seconds between presentation of required and additional stimuli.
Works Cited by the Experiment
Bartlett, F.C. (1932). Remembering. Cambridge.
Broadbent, D.E. (1956). Successive responses to simultaneous stimuli. Quart. J. exp. Psychol., 8, 145-152.
Broadbent, D.E. (1957). Immediate memory and simultaneous stimuli. Quart. J. exp. Psychol., 9, 1-11.
Brown, J. (1954). The nature of set to learn and of intra-material interference in immediate memory. Quart. J. of exp. Psychol., 6, 141-8.
Brown, J. (1955). Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Cambridge.
Brown, J. (1956). Distortions in immediate memory. Quart. J. of exp. Psychol., 8, 134-9.
Conrad, R. (1957). Decay theory of immediate memory. Nature, 179, 4564.
Duncan, C. P. (1949). The retroactive effect of electroshock on learning. J. comp. physiol. Psychol., 42, 32-44.
Harden, L. M. (1929). The quantitative study of the similarity factor in retroactive inhibition. J. gen. Psychol., 2, 421-30.
Herb, D. O. (1949). The Organization of Behaviour. New York.
Hull, C. L. et al. (1940). Mathematico-deductive Theory of Rote Learning. New Haven.
Koffka, K. (1935). Principles of Gestalt Psychology. New York.
McGeogh, J. A. (1942). The Psychology of Human Learning. New York.
Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two. Psychol. Rev., 63, 81-97.
Muller, C. E. and Pilzecker, A. (1900). Experimentelle Beitraege zur Lehre vom Gedaechtnis. Z. Psychol. Ergb., 1, 1-288 (Quoted in
Pillsbury, W. B. and Sylvester, A. (1940). Retroactive and proactive inhibition in immediate memory. J. exp. Psychol., 27, 532-45.
Pratt, C. C. (1933). Time errors in the method of single stimuli. J. exp. Psychol., 16, 798-814.
Robinson, E. S. (1927). The similarity factor in retroaction. Amer. J. Psychol., 39, 297-312.
Underwood, B. J. (1957). Interference and forgetting. Psychol. Rev., 64, 49-60.
Young, C. W. and Supa, M. (1941). Mnemic inhibition as a factor in the limitation of the memory span. Amer. J. Psychol., 54, 546-52.
STEP: Short-term Retention of Individual Verbal Items 
STEP: The Information Available in Brief Visual Presentations 
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