The results showed that organisation does play an important role in memory. Participants who studied the organised list of words recalled significantly more words then those who studied the random list. This supports the findings of other studies into the role of organisation in memory. BACKGROUND Memory is an essential part of the human make-up and without it society as we know it would not exist.
Whilst there are still questions about how memories are created, stored and retrieved, it seems clear from studies that have been carried out that the more organised information is, the easier the recall is. Bousfield (1953) showed that even when words were presented in a random order, many participants use some form of categorisation in order to aid their recall. Bousfield took lists of words from several different categories, such as animals or cities, and randomised them. Participants were asked to memorise the list of words and then later were asked to recall as many words as possible. Many of the participants used self imposed categories in order aid their recall of the word list.
Other studies have looked at whether pre-organised information is easier to recall. Tulving has conducted much research into cued recall. Tulving and Pearlstone (1966) studied the effects of cued recall. Participants were read list of words which were all under a category name. They were asked to memorise the words but not the category headings and were then split into two groups. When the first group were asked to recall as many words as possible, they were given the category headings to aid them (cued recall). The second group were asked to free recall. The group which were given the category headings recalled more words; suggesting that organisation into categories aids memory retrieval.
Bower (1969) also studied the effects of organisation on memory. Again participants were split into two groups. Each group was shown a total of 112 words separated onto four cards. One group had cards on which the words were presented in logical branching diagrams, and the second group had cards on which the words were presented randomly on the branches. The process of studying the cards and recalling as many words as they could was repeated four times. The group whose cards had been presented in a logical manner recalled all 112 words in the final two recalls; the other group averaged just 70 words on the final recall. The study again suggests that material presented in logical categories is more easily stored and recalled from memory.
Other investigations have been undertaken into whether memory is improved by participants organising material into categories themselves. Wittrock and Carter (1975) used lists similar to those used by Bower but the ordering of the words was in a random format. Half of the participants were asked to simply copy out the list of words, whilst the other half were asked to order them logically before writing them down. Recall was greater in those who had been asked to organise the lists of words themselves. They also carried out the same experiment but with organised lists of words. Again recall was greater in the groups that had been asked to impose their own organisation on the lists suggesting that recall will be greater when the learner has some input into the organisation of the material.
Mandler (1967) also used self categorisation within his study. Participants were given words printed on cards and asked to organise them into categories (at least 2 but no more than 7). These participants recalled more words than those who had been given words as a random list. Mandler also found that the more categories participants had used, the greater the number of words recalled. This suggests that the greater the organisation of material, the better the memory storage and retrieval. It also appears that in order to aid recall, actively organising information is at least as important as the intention to learn.
The most efficient learners were those that actively sought to categorise the material to be learned, however, most people only did this when they were asked to do so. All of the above studies arrive at the same conclusion; that the better the organisation of information, the better the recall of that information, particularly when that information has been organised by the learner.