Verbal Learning Research Paper Essay Research Paper

Verbal Learning Research Paper Essay, Research Paper

Verbal Learning 1

Running head: Comparison of High and Low Similarity Verbal

Comparison of High and Low Similarity Verbal Learning

Retention in College Students

Jenny A. Rosario

Hunter College in

City University of New York

Verbal Learning 2



The participants were 1 white male and 1 black female ages 21 and 26, respectively. The male participant, who was tested with the High Similarity (HS) condition, knew four languages (Russian, Polish, French and English). The female participant, tested with the Low Similarity (LS) condition, knew two languages (English and French). Although both participants were college students, they varied in the number of years they had been in school, the male was an undergraduate junior and the female was working on her second bachelors. Both participants were honor students.

The final results for this experiment were all of the data pooled from the students in my experimental class. Each student contributed two additional participants to the experiment. These participants were 13 males and 13 females ranging in ages from 15 to 44 years olds (M = 25). Education ranged from 12 years to 23 years of school (M = 15.2). Half of these participants were given the HS task and the other half were given the LS task. As it turns out, the group given the HS task were older (M =27) and more educated (M =16.28) than the group that was given the LS task (M =23 years old and M =14.14 years of education).


Before the experiment, I prepared 11stimuli cards with one of the following nonsense syllable in each: FAP, ZET, KIB, XEL, ROF, GEV, LOZ, BEX, NAJ, WEM and PIV in that order. I prepared a second set of 11 cards I would later use only with the

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participant doing the HS condition. These were paired words where on one side I wrote the pair of words and on the other side I only wrote the first stimuli word. The words were paired in the following manner: DOG-GAK, TAN-XOM, CAR-VUR, BAT-SEJ, WAR-DEH, BUN-KAL, NET-TEG, HOG-XEN, FIN-YEC, GUN-LOF, and PAD-BIW. All syllable words were hand printed on 3×5in index cards, 22 cards in all were used. I also prepared, on regular lined paper, instructions and places where each participant could write down any necessary answers, or use as scrap paper for the LS condition. Aside from that, the only other item used was a watch with a second hand to keep track of time.


To begin the experiment, I met with each participant (at separate times) in a quiet room where the participant could sit comfortably and concentrate for the experiment. Before we began, I asked each subject to sign an informed consent. Both subjects agreed to the conditions and signed the form. I then sat across from the participant at a table (about 3ft away), asked the subject if they were ready, and began showing them the first list of words. In my HS and LS condition, I displayed each card for 4 sec once and asked the participant to anticipate what the next card would be before I presented it. I manually recorded each of the responses the participant gave me. I continued to repeat the list until the participant successfully predicted the list once.

To my HS participant, I proceeded to show the second list with the paired word-nonsense word. After presenting the list once, I turned the cards over, showed the participant the stimulus word and asked the participant to tell me what the paired word was. In this part

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of the experiment, however, there was a 15min time limit, regardless of whether the participant could memorize the list. Once the 15mins were up, I gave my participant a sheet and asked him to list all the words that he could remember from the original list. As it happened, my participant was able to correctly recall all 11 words, had he been unsuccessful, I would have had to re-teach him the list and record how many trials it took him to relearn it.

To my LS participant, I asked her to list all prime number from 1-100. Because she finished this exercise before the 15min were up, I had her do various addition and division problems using the prime numbers. When the time was up, I handed her a piece of paper and asked her to write down as many words as she could recall from the list she had memorized. Once that was done, and because she successfully recalled all 11 words, I thanked her and informed her that the experiment was over.


The results that follow are based on the information gathered from the whole class. An alpha level of .05 was used for all statistical tests. With that in mind, I found there was no significant difference in the number of trials it took for the HS (M=9.71, SD=4.2) and LS (M=10.43, SD=3.75) groups to learn the words, t (26) = -0.456, p = 0.651, two-tail. Also, there wasn’t any significant difference in the number of items recalled after the distraction period for the HS (M= 9.36, SD=1.67) and LS (M= 9.71, SD=1.28); t (26) = -0.61, p = 0.546, two-tailed. In addition, there also was no significant difference between the HS (M=2.21, SD=1.03) and LS (M=1.93, SD=1.61) in the number of trials it took for them to

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re-learn the original list: t (26) = 0.538, p = 0.595, two-tailed. However, there was a significant difference in education where t = 2.325, p = 0.028, but there was no significant difference for age, t (26) = 1.858, p = 0.075. Both my participants showed no significant difference in savings (both at 100% savings). For the whole group, although the LS (M=78.26) had a higher savings than HS (M=69.92), there was no significance there either with t (26) = -1.002, p = 0.326.


Although previous data suggest that significant difference should have been found between both groups (Walker, 1996), I was unable to show that in this experiment. In fact the only place where I did find significant difference was in seeing if my groups matched to begin with. Unfortunately that information did not help. I found that although participants of the HS were more educated then the LS group, they did not performed better at the task in learning, recall or relearning.

In the area of savings, I did find that the LS group had a slightly higher saving, however, not enough for significance and neither were there any difference in age for the two groups. Interestingly, both my participants commented now how they each had terrible memories, yet both showed 100% savings in the recall task.

I decided to divide the participants according to types of jobs, as seen in figure 5 and found that a greater number of participants with ‘trade type’ jobs were in the LS group, but this did not seem to lower their scores as an average.

In figure 1, we see that that shape of the curve is similar to the one shown by Walker (1996). In other words, the average number of errors were low at the beginning

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and at the end of the list but high in-between. My 2nd participant was able to get a low number of errors on certain words in-between due to the types of words they were. For example I noticed that for the 5th word, ROF, she only miss twice. I believe that was due to the fact that it came after XEL which sounds very much like a program which she uses a lot as a secretary. This is an example of the Von Restorff effect. It is highly plausible that ‘XEL’ was not significantly noticeable to the rest of the participants, therefore, they didn’t experience the same effect.

Another interesting note, I think, is that although my 1st participant took 15 trials to learn the original set of syllables, he was able to memorize the second set in just 4 trials leading me to believe that perhaps some students would perform better in a paired-association task.

Finally, in comparing figures 2, 3, and 4, we can see a trend in the direction of the graphs, although not equivalent in shape. Figures two and three are from my two participants and figure 4 is an estimated mean learning curve for all the data gathered. Participant #1 closely follows figure 2, however participant #2’s curve was less predictable (she also admitted after the test that she wasn’t feeling well and that she had a headache).

As a final note I must say that I would not trust some of the analysis done on these data collected since 6 participants were declared to have successfully completed 11 items recalled and then listed as having an ‘x number’ of trials to relearn the task. Obviously there is an error somewhere on the part of the experimenter, unfortunately that most likely had an effect on my results.

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Figure Caption

Figure 1. Group data of error vs. item positioning

Figure 2. Learning curve for participant #1

Figure 3. Learning curve for participant #2

Figure 4. Learning curve for all 28 participants.

Figure 5. Frequency of participants in different types of occupations.



Walker, JT. (1996). Verbal learning. The psychology of learning (pp212-231). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


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