What could be more fun than testing your friend's and family's memory skills? It is a subject that has fascinated people for centuries and memory is the perfect topic for a middle or high school science fair project.
What Do We Know About Memory?
Psychologists divide memory into three stores: sensory store, short-term store, and long-term store.
After entering the sensory store, some information proceeds into the short-term store.
From there some information proceeds to the long-term store. These stores are referred to as short-term memory and long-term memory respectively.
Short-term memory has two important characteristics:
- Short-term memory can contain at any one time seven, plus or minus two, "chunks" of information.
- Items remain in short-term memory around twenty seconds.
Long-term memory is stored in our brains forever. We use recall to retrieve memories.
Since your experiment cannot go on forever, you should probably stick with short-term memory for your science fair project.
Memory Science Fair Project Ideas
- Prove that people will remember more numbers if given the numbers in "chunks." You can do this by giving them a list of one-digit numbers first and see how many they can remember, recording your data for each person.
- Then, give each person a list of two-digit numbers and see how many of those numbers they can remember. Repeat this for three- and even four-digit numbers (that is the tough one for most people).
- If you use words, rather than numbers, use nouns like apple, orange, banana, etc. This prevents the person you are testing from making a sentence out of the words you have given.
Most people have learned to "chunk" things together, so do your test with related words and with non-related words and compare the difference.
- Test gender or age differences. Do males remember more or less than females? Do children remember more than teens or adults? Be sure to log the gender and age of each person you test so you can make accurate comparisons.
- Test the language factor. What do people remember better: numbers, words or a series of colors?
For this test, you may want to use flash cards with different numbers, words or colors on each card. Begin with numbers and have each person you are testing try to memorize a series of numbers they are shown on the cards. See how many they can remember in one round. Then, do the same with nouns and colors.
Can your test subjects remember more colors than numbers? Is there a difference between children and adults?
- Use an online short-term memory test. Within the links below, you will find two of the many memory tests available online. Have the people you are testing run through each of the tests while you watch them. Record how well they did along with data like their gender age and what time of day they took the test.
If possible, test subjects twice at different times of the day. Do people remember better in the morning or the evening after a long day at work or school?
Take your laptop or tablet to the science fair and let people see how their own memory compares to your test group when they take the same test.