Describe and Evaluate Godden & Baddeley??™s (1975) study into forgetting. (12 marks)
Godden & Baddeley carried out a field study into how memory can be affected by the cognitive environment in which a memory is first encoded. The aim of their study was to investigate how the physical context of the encoding environment can affect the subsequent recall of memory.
The study was carried out in Oban, Scotland using a sample of 18 student divers from a university diving club. The divers memories were to be tested using a basic memory test of random unrelated 2-3 syllable words from a list of 38 words.
G&B used a Repeated Measures Design; where each of the 18 divers would be taking part in all four conditions of the independent variable. Each diver would carry out the following conditions. 1. Encode in a ???wet??™ environment, recall in a ???dry??™ environment. 2. Encode in a ???dry??™ environment, recall in a ???dry??™ environment. These first two conditions were referred to as context-cued conditions, as the context was kept identical between the encoding and recall of the original memory. The last two conditions had no context cues between encoding and recall: 3. Encode ???dry??™, recall ???wet??™. 4. Encode ???wet??™ and recall ???dry??™.
When in the ???wet??™ condition divers were submerged (20 feet below) using a diving underwater communication system so they could hear the words for memorising. While in the ???dry??™ condition divers were to be at the waters edge, with the diving equipment removed. This was to ensure that there was a significant contrast between the two contexts being used.
G&B found that recall was strongest within the context-cued conditions, in particular the ???dry??™/ ???dry??™ condition, where there was a high average recall of 13.5. This is significantly higher when compared to the score of the non context-cued condition score of 8.5 for the ???wet??™/ ???dry??™ condition.
G&B concluded that this supports the cue-dependent theory of forgetting, which states that contextual cues in the cognitive environment can aid recall. These results also support the Encoding Specificity Principle, as the greater the similarity between the encoding environment (i.e. ???dry??™) and the recall event (i.e. ???dry??™ also), the better the recall.
A big weakness that could be immediately observed from these results would be that despite this showing strong empirical support for key principles of Tulving??™s cue-dependent theory of forgetting, it shows that the divers did forget a significant numbers of words. So clearly recall is not fully dependent on the ???context??™ of the encoding environment. G&B would be wise to perhaps consider other parts of Tulving??™s theory such as the importance of ???state??™ as well as context for a cue to recall.
An advantage of this study would be that it was a highly controlled field experiment, employing a standardised procedure, where each PP diver was going to encounter a largely similar testing environment. These controls means that the study could be easily replicated again and so the results found could be tested for reliability.
On top of this G&B wisely used a field experiment, whereas most cognitive experiments focus on lab testing. This means that the environment would be as natural as possible for the 18 divers being tested, which means that divers would hopefully behave in a natural manner. This grants G&B??™s study with a high degree of ecological validity, as the environment for these divers would have been ???real-to-life??™.
However, despite this strength the study does lack experimental validity, as the task employed for physically testing memory in this study could be described as ???artificial??™ in nature. Most studies into memory use word recall memory tests using random unrelated words. The problem with this is that this is not a realistic test of day-to-day memory.
The experimental design of repeated measures employed by G&B means that participant variables were controlled. As each participant took part in all four conditions, G&B could see how that individual divers results changed, in the knowledge that their own characteristics stayed the same. However, a drawback of this type of design would be that each diver had four days to continually carry out these memory tests. This may have meant that they may have suffered from order effects; as perhaps over time during the experiment the PP??™s may have improved at the task required of them. This is known as the practice effect.
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