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Memory Test For Positive And Negative Words Psychology Essay

Memory Test For Positive And Negative Words Psychology Essay

In the subject of Word Memory, many different types of researches have been done in the past. In many of these researches we can find that many different factors affect the way we remember some words. Examples of different factors are familiarity, imageability, arousal, and valence. In this particular study we took a look at one of these factors, negative and positive words. The subjects in this experiment were shown a list of 20 different words, and our hypothesis: subjects with low mean age will remember more negative words than positive ones. However we did not find any relevant difference between the two groups of words, more extensive studies could be carried out on the subject to see relevant differences.


There has been broad different researches in the field of Word Memory, and experts have been trying to figure out whether word recollection is affected by different variables. In some experiments it has come to light that word recollection is greatly affected by word concreteness. Concrete words are easier to remember than abstract words (Walker, Ian; Hulme, Charles, 1999). But yet it is not the only factor that can affect word memory. In some other cases, it was shown that the results were affected by the frequency of the words. As shown in the study conducted by Robert E. Guttentag and Donna Carroll (1997), word recollection is greatly affected by the frequency of the words: “The findings indicated that subjects were better at remembering the mental operations utilized at study for low frequency than for high frequency words.” In this research in particular we are going to focus on the emotionality of the words, such as positive and negative words.

“In long-term memory, negative information is better remembered than neutral information. Differences in processes important to working memory may contribute to this emotional memory enhancement” (Kensinger, Elizabeth A.; Corkin, Suzanne, 2003) As stated emotion in memory can have quite a big impact. The way we feel about words meaning can greatly change the amount of time we will remember that specific word. In another experiment, subjects were depression induced, and had to undergo recollection of words. The experiments showed that emotion played a key role into the controlled group and the other. The subjects were recolling words based on the emotions induced from the experimenters. (Bradley, Mogg, Galbraith & Perrett, 1993).

Our goal is to investigate on the effect of emotionality in words recollection. Subjects will be shown 2 different groups of words for a total of 20 words. Negative words and Positive words. Since pre-experiment we knew that the age of the participants and size of the group were relatively small, we hypothesized that the participants will remember negative words more than positive words.



The experiment was a within subject design and the controlled variable was the valency of the words, positive and negative. The number of the words that each participant would remember was the dependent variable. The problem of order effect was overcome by creating two separate powerpoint presentations. The order of the words was also different and randomized.


All of the participants were part of the psychology class at Aberdeen university. 16 subjects. Out of all the participants only 1 was male, the rest 15 were females. The mean age of the participants was 20.69, with a SD of 2.44


The main tool of the experiment were presentations done by using PowerPoint. All the subjects were presented with 20 words (10 positive & 10 negative). The source were we took the words is Bellezza, Greenwald and Banajis’ (1986) catalogue of words. The 20 words were on a pleasantness scale. Positive pleasantness mean: 4.50, negative pleasantness mean: 1,64. In order to randomize and finding out the mean of pleasantness of the words also the program Microsoft Excel was used. Later for the results and analysis, a software named Statistical Package for Social Science was used.


Each subject was given a computer were the power point presentation was started. The presentation gave the instructions to each participant. The first slide showed the participants that they would be shown a list of 20 words, each word was shown on screen for only 2 seconds. Afterwards they would have to remember as many words as they could from the ones shown. It also said that between the acquisition and recollection of the words they would take a 2 minutes mathematical questionnaire, and then they could write down as many words as they could remember from the slides.

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After the experiment was over, we recorded the results of each participant and their sex and age. We then took those results and analyzed them using SPSS.


The results were the following: the mean number of words remembered for negative condition was 4.00 with a SD of 1.63, the standard error was 0.41. Instead for the positive condition, the mean was 3.69 with a SD of 1.54 and the standard error of 0.38. The results can be seen in chart below (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Means for both negative and positive scores. Each top bar rappresents the plus or minus 1 for standard error.

Since the results shown in Figure 1 very similar to each other, more analysis had to be done. A paired samples t-test was used in this case. The t-test showed that the mean for positive condition was 3.69, with a SD of 1.54. The mean for the negative condition was 4.00 with a SD of 1.63. Therefore the results showed us that there were no relevant differences between the two condition. Due to the results been non-significant, we can state that our hypothesis is not supported and it could be rejected.


According to Thomas & Hasher (2006), the phenomena stated in our hypothesis would happen if the subjects were of younger age. Unfortunately as we saw in our results, our hypothesis, that negative words would be remembered more than positive words, was rejected. This could be due to different factors such as sex, age (Thomas & Hasher, 2006), ethnicity and numbers of subject.

Many different things could be the reason why we did not receive the results we were expecting. For example, the number of our participant was limited to 16. In a case where we would of have 100 or 1000 we could of seen the differences in the means curve. Also the words were a limited number. A list of 20 words could be too few to prove the hypothesis. For future studies these aspects should be observed and improved in order to see results more towards to our hypothesis.


To conclude, the results in this experiment were not to expectations. The low number of participants and the list of few words were the main factors for these results. In future experiments perhaps we would take in consideration these factors and also improve other particulars, such as space where the experiment is taken; perhaps a single room for each participant would have impact on the recollection of words (less distractions). And also the time and task before the recollection, could be a bit longer time and different/more challenging task.

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