Canadian Journal of Psychology:
The Memory Trend Throughout the Years 1974 to 1978

Rachel Stone, Alia Zaver, & Adrinane Chan
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

Throughout the years 1974 to 1978 there was an obvious trend in the publication of studies on experimentation of information processing abilities of human beings. We decided to choose a single common cognitive ability to be focused on, and that was memory. As such, memory was seen as the retention, recall and recognition of information. The earlier years sustained a larger interest in the ability of human beings to explicitly remember information, and that interest slowly declined towards 1978, where the main focus that year was on animal experiments.

In 1974 there were a large number of studies focusing on the explicit remembering of information. All of these studies used human subjects, mostly men and women together, who were enrolled in a post-secondary institution. The studies most often used recall as the method of testing memory, with recognition used less frequently as a secondary method. Only occasionally was recognition included along with the recall task in the some experiments. Reaction time was also used as a measurement and decay was an important factor when the studies were centered on short-term memory, which most of them were.

Throughout this year, the experimenters concentrated on the processing skills of individuals and the strategies used to retain information for later use. Through tachistoscopic presentation of information, as well as through computer screens, flash cards and slides, the experimenters focused on the visual processing of information. Only did one article report having concentrated on verbal memory using verbal stimuli during that year.

In 1975 there weren't as many studies on memory as in the previous year, however, there was a higher percentage of studies on auditory memory. In this year there were also more recall studies and much less use of the tachistoscopic presentation. During 1974 many studies explained processing strategies for better retention of information, where this year contained more information regarding the modeling of memory.

Many of the studies used word associations and frequencies of presentation to judge how items are connected. They also studied how concrete and abstract types of information affected remembering with a number of studies exclusively studying loss of information in memory due to interference, as opposed to decay (as suggested in the previous year).

The Journal in 1976 mainly dealt with experiments that were looking at recognition. Subjects were tested using visual stimuli and the experiments had variations in terms of how recognition was being measured. For example, processing time of initial encoding as an indication of the results of recognition was used as well as the reaction time of subjects in identifying pictures. These experiments were fairly simple in that the experimenters merely looked at recognition as a whole, and did not look at other variables.

Towards the end of 1976, the experiments became more complex. More variables were being analyzed. Additionally, more comparisons were being made between the different variables. For example, verbal stimuli were brought in and a comparison between visual and verbal methods of encoding was made. Another comparison of the amount of interference on either one was also done. At this time, different aspects of memory were also being looked at, for example, verbal coding and retention and their relationship to and their effects on the order of information.

In 1977, semantic memory, which was the role of contextual information in memory, was emphasized. The experiments were still interested in looking at aspects of encoding, recognition and retrieval, however, they were taken to a new level. This level explored memory in terms of encoding information semantically, and how information is recognized and retrieved using contextual information. These experiments concentrated on how memory works in terms of semantic memory using stimuli and contextual cues to abstract information.

A similarity that was found between all of the experiments involving memory in these two years, excluding the last experiment, was that all of the subjects used were University students, either undergraduates or graduates, most of them majoring in psychology. However, in the last experiment on memory done in 1977, three different age groups were used as subjects. These included preteens, young adults and senior adults. This final experiment was specifically looking at comparing the age groups and finding the differences in their retention of information. Asides from this experiment, all of the other subjects fall into the category of students who were attending a post secondary institution.

Unlike 1974 to 1977, the trends in studies indicated in 1978 were slightly different. Although the studies of cognition and information processing abilities of human beings were still in account, the field of study in brain-behavior once again emerged. In this year, experimenters had put more emphasis on the study of neural mechanisms and of reinforcement and learning. From the 22 experiments which were conducted in 1978, 8 of them used animals as subjects while 2 of them used children and 2 used young adults, and the rest of the experiments used either graduate or undergraduate university students. Of all of the subjects used, a large percent of them were exclusively male. Another inconsistency was that in 1978, a longitudinal method of study was done, which was very uncommon.

In the above-mentioned experiments, by using the animals, the experimenters were able to conduct studies with dopamine and primozide, and electric shock without worrying about the human code of ethics. What the experimenters were looking for in these experiments were the changes in behavior experienced with each new variable.

During 1978, the experiments not only concentrated on memory and cognition of information processing abilities in humans, but also were conducted in a more sophisticated way. The majority of experiments looked at different aspects of visual recognition, while only one focused on recall and one focused on auditory short-term memory. Of the visual recognition studies, different presentations of items, such as disorientated words or letters, were the main stimuli for measurement. Distraction tasks between the presentation of the stimuli and point of recognition or recall were used as an example of interference in the memory model. The one longitudinal study included in these years of the journal was used as a method to prove that memory is needed to acquire the use of language.