The Effect of the Pegword Method and
Method of Loci on Word Recall
We tested the effects of two memory devices on word recall: the Pegword Method and the Method of Loci in comparison to a control group. We hypothesized that humans can improve their memory with these mnemonic techniques
We used 14 participants to test our hypothesis. Half of the participants were instructed to memorize word lists before learning about the Pegword Method and Method of Loci (control group). The other half of participants memorized word lists using the Pegword Method and Method of Loci first. Separating the groups also served to prevent a bias toward the mnemonic method. Participants were always given only a minute to memorize lists, and encoding was always followed with a 30 second distractor task.
We first tested the Pegword Method. Participants were given one minute to memorize a base list of words sequentially, each rhyming with a number 1-10. Next, participants were instructed to memorize a list of ten names by visually associating them with the pegwords. Participants were presented with the distractor task of counting backward by 3Ős for 30 seconds, then instructed to recall the names from the list in order, using the pegwords. For the Method of Loci, participants were instructed to memorize a grocery list of 16 items by imagining the items as body parts on a human (ex: light bulbs for eye balls). All other methods testing the Method of Loci were identical to those used to test the Pegword Method.
Since mnemonics have been shown to improve memory, we predicted that both of these methods would improve word recall. Our results indicated that our hypothesis and prediction were correct. The percentage mean of words recalled using the Pegword Method was 82.86, versus a mean of 70.0 for no Pegword Method (p=.0008), an extremely statistical difference. The percentage mean of words recalled with the Method of Loci was 77.3, versus a mean of 54.57 for no Method of Loci ( p=.0302), also a statistical difference. Word recall using the Method of Loci and the Pegword Method was superior in comparison to the control group.
One potential problem with our experiment was that the distractor task of counting backward may not have been equally distracting for all participants. We attempted to keep the distractor as effective as possible by changing the number being counted back from every time. To improve our experiment in the future, we would run multiple trials using completely different distractor tasks in each one, to ensure that our results are reliable. For example, we might show different pictures as distractors in one trial, count backward in another, etc. Also, our 14 participants were all CU students. Other changes we could make to our experiment in the future include randomly drawing participants from a broader (on a geographical scale), more diverse population and increasing sample size.