The influence of processing levels on independent variables Psychology Essay (2023)

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The aim of this experiment was to examine the influence of processing levels (independent variable) on our memory (dependent variable). We hypothesize that a deeper level of processing leads to better memory and therefore better recall. The experiment controlled for variables such as environmental conditions, the age of the target population, and the educational background of the participants. The experiment uses the Independent Measures design and the participants are a practical sample of teenagers. We reduced the practice effect and the fatigue effect using the single-blind technique. The results confirmed the hypothesis: semantic coding leads to greater retention and deeper memory tracking, while structural coding leads to shallow memory processing. These results are replicated in Craik and Lockhart's (1972) processing level model. Studies by Hyde and Jenkins (1973) and Craik and Tulving (1975) also support the same results: deeper levels of processing lead to better recall. The Mann-Whitney U test also made a clear distinction in the number of words remembered based on deep and shallow processing. The study also raised some limitations such as generalizations, repetition, ecological validity and others. Overall, the experiment effectively manipulated variables and reproduced accurate results.


Research question: To what extent does the level of processing affect word memory?

Learning takes place through many different processes. Levels of processing are used to explain why we have deeper tracking of some things and shallow tracking of others.

Craik and Lockhart's (1972) research on levels of processing serves as the backbone of cognitive psychology. In contrast to Atkinson and Shiffrin's (1968) multiple storage model, which divides memory into different stores (STM and LTM), Craik and Lockhart's processing levels model suggests that memory is divided into different processes that follow.

Surface processing is divided into structural coding (visually appealing words) and phonological coding (sounding words), while deep processing is based on semantic coding (word meaning). They demonstrated through their research that "feature persistence is a positive function of the depth at which the stimulus was analyzed", which means that elaborative (word analysis) trial takes longer than distinctive (word distinction) trial. .

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Another study by Craik and Tulving (1975) is similar and further confirms the previous study. They conducted an experiment in which participants were divided into 3 groups. Each participant was given a list of 60 words through one of three tasks that tested all three levels of processing. The memory recognition test concluded that the semantically processed words had a higher recognition value than the others.

Hyde and Jenkins (1973) also performed an experiment using the incidental learning technique (informal learning). They divided their participants into different groups and each worked on one of five tasks. After the pop-up recall test, they concluded that those tasks that involved semantic processing had better recall and therefore deeper processing.

Elias and Perfetti (1973) performed a study using the same technique. It involved a task of rhyming a list of words and finding synonyms for them. Participants in the synonym task were able to remember more words than the others and came to the same conclusion as above.

Therefore, I decided to investigate the relationship between levels of processing and recall of words through two questions: one in which the first group of participants must identify the colored word and another in which the second group must identify phrases that contain the given words. .


Null hypothesis: There will be no impact of processing levels on word recall.

Undirected hypothesis: there will be a significant difference in recall of semantically processed words versus structurally processed words.

Directional hypothesis: the number of words processed structurally will leave a deeper trail than those processed semantically.



Participants received informed consent and were not required to participate in the study. They were given clear instructions at the start of the task and a report at the end.

Independent variable:

Deep and superficial levels of processing.

Dependent variable:

number of remembered words

Control Variables:

environmental conditions

student age

student's education level

number of words

We reduced requirements using the single-blind technique by performing a surprise recall test at the end of the task, before which participants were unable to interact with each other. The consent form also mentioned that their identities would remain hidden. Therefore, this reduced the effect of fatigue and the effect of exercise.

We also used independent measures in our design because each participant was part of one of two groups and was allowed to perform one of the tasks that involved deep or shallow levels of processing. So this greater external validity.

The Mann-Whitney U test was performed because it is a non-parametric test and the sample participating in the study does not exceed thirty, so it was considered an adequate computational test that combines statistical data for our test.


We use non-probabilistic sampling, where we use accidental sampling or convenience sampling to keep the age range constant. It was also more convenient to conduct an experiment in a school setting.

We conducted the experiment with a total of 20 participants and divided them into two groups of 10 participants. Taking gender into account, participants were randomly mixed and each group consisted of an odd number of men and women.

The target group consisted of 16-year-olds with a similar level of education who were in IB Year 1. As a control, the participants in Group 1 (LOP Profundo) completed the task together at the same time and the participants in Group 2 ( Superficial LOP) did the same. This reduced the likelihood of interaction between participants.




Appendix A - Consent Form

Appendix B: Parental Consent Form

Appendix C - Standardized Instructions

Appendix D: Word Lists and Attached Task Sheets

Appendix F - Information Letter

blank sheets of paper

A classroom was needed to carry out the experiment.


The procedure was identical for both groups, Group 1 (deep LOP) was first and then Group 2 (superficial LOP).

Participants were not allowed to interact at any time during this experiment.

Each group was placed in a comfortable room with enough chairs and tables for 10 participants.

Then, they received the Informed Consent Form (Appendix A) and the Parental Consent Form (Appendix B) for those over 16 years old.

Subsequently, standardized instructions (Appendix C) were issued for each group. Participants were allowed to leave at this time. For those who didn't understand clearly, the instructions were explained one by one.

They were then given the word lists and worksheets (Appendix D) but were not allowed to start until told.


time limit


Group A (Deep Lop)

8 minutes

Make sentences with the given words.

Group B (LOP plan)

2.5 minutes

Identify the color of the letters in each word and write in the spaces provided how many were blue, green and red.

The time limit was respected with a stopwatch and, at the end of the time, the participants were asked to put down their pens while the collection of answer sheets began. If a participant finished early, the remaining time was used to review and double-check their answers.

Then we announced the surprise test and each participant received a blank sheet of paper.

They had 1 minute to complete the memory test and the time was recorded with a stopwatch.

The answer sheets were collected at the end of this task and asked to remain silent until the exit.

The information letter (Appendix F) was then delivered. After reading, we collected and the participants of that group were asked to remain seated until we set up the nest group in another room.


Group A (Deep Lop)

Group B (LOP plan)









3,4 (bimodal)




Standard deviation




The purpose of the experiment was; To what extent do processing levels affect our memory for words? This was evidenced by the results of our study, as participants who formed meaningful sentences with the words showed a deeper level of processing than those who simply swiped the words identifying the color of the letters.

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This study reproduces the same results as Craik and Lockhart (1972). Variables were the same for all studies mentioned in the introduction (p. 4). The experiment by Craik and Tulving (1975) confirmed that processing depth increases the further one goes from structural to phonological and deeper to semantic processing. Our research only tested two of these conditions, structural coding was the task that required identifying letter colors and this turned out to be a shallow level of processing. The second task required participants to form sentences using the same word list, which processed words deeper in the brain. Cognitive memory function is affected by many conditions like these. Also the research of Hyde and Jenkins (1973) demonstrated the same hypothesis with 3 additional tasks compared to our experiment. They also concluded that more words were remembered due to semantic processing.

Statistical results were also the same; the mean, median, and mode for group A was one number higher compared to group B, showing a greater number of words recalled due to deeper processing. According to Craik and Lockhart, "Memory is a by-product of cognition" and when words are perceived deeper in our brain, our memory is stronger in the long run. The results also replicated Craig and Tulving's experiment, as they used their analysis to prove the same thing. Hyde and Jenkins performed a broader and deeper analysis that showed that memory is directly proportional to processing depth. We also include random learning in our test; through an amazing memory test and convenience sampling.

By using the same classroom environment in both cases, we ensured that the participants were not only comfortable, but also in the right condition to complete the task. Environmental conditions were thus controlled. Our target group was the same age and all the children came from the same class. As a result, the age and education level of the participants remained constant. The design of independent measures ensured the elimination of the effect of exercise and the effect of fatigue. The single-blind technique also ensured that necessary features were avoided.

Our participants received informed consent before the study (Appendix A) and were thanked and questioned at the end (Appendix F). They were allowed to withdraw at any time during the experiment. Your anonymity was protected even after the results you chose to see or receive were published. The experimenters were also careful not to disturb the participants in any way, which would impair the test performance and therefore the results.

A lab experiment like this one called ecological validity into question, as the variables could have influenced participants' responses. We also avoided picking up the assignment sheet before the whole group had completed the experiment, and this may have led to repetition, which influenced our analysis to some extent. Direct comparison of the results between the two groups may also have created some uncertainty, as the participants were different and their cultural and social background could have an impact. As we study, cultural and social factors affect our memory, and people tend to remember things they can identify with. Some words may have implied this, leading to inaccuracies.

It can be very difficult to make generalizations using random sampling as you may not have met the exact requirements of the target population. Random sampling might have been a better option, but it is more common and therefore requires more time.

There was a conflict between concrete and abstract words that affected one participant's memory. As Walker, I. and Hulme, C. (1999) suggest, concrete words (objects/events in service of our senses) are more likely to be remembered than abstract words (an idea/concept). To avoid this, the wordlist could contain one of these phrases. Another study by Weldon, M.S. and Bellinger, K. D. (1997) concluded that words learned together leave a deeper memory imprint than individual recall processes. This contradicts our research as the task was assigned separately to one participant. To avoid this, the test could have been done together to compare the results.

Word difficulty has been kept to a minimum, but this cannot be judged as a participant may be familiar with some and not others. To avoid this, we could have consulted the word list of a control group and an English teacher.

In summary, this experiment manipulated variables effectively and obtained accurate results to test the hypothesis. The deeper level of processing (semantic encoding) leaves a deeper memory trace, resulting in better recall. These results support Craik and Lockhart's (1972) levels of processing theory.

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