Psychology department holds poster fair

Katrina Moses, Staff Writer

The Psychology Poster Fair was held by the Psychology department on Monday, Dec. 1. The purpose of the poster fair was for students to showcase their findings on an extensive experiment that says “chunking” occurs in spatial memory and may increase memory capacity.

The three students involved with this poster were all psychology majors. Devin Kellis, junior, is a double major in psychology and biology. Doug Howell and Danielle Fletcher are seniors in the department.

The three investigated past research on the topic, conducted the experiment and documented the results. Their experiment sought out evidence of a form of “chunking,” in which objects in space are grouped together based on similar environmental features in human spatial memory.

“Your spatial memory is governed by your brain,” Kellis said.

Spatial memory is responsible for recording information about one’s environment and its spatial orientation.

Their research says “chunking” has been shown to increase organization of spatial regions with an individual’s memory capacity.

The group used this example to explain, “chunking.” If a student were to study a list that contained these words in this order: tea, cat, Coke, or dog; students are most likely to chunk together words that relate to each other. That means students will chunk tea and Coke together because they are both beverages and then chunk together cat and dog because the two are a type of animal.

The students found volunteers for the project that were all within 18-24 years of age. They then put up to 10 labeled objects in McNair Science Building and Leatherman Science Facility and filmed a rectangular route in each building. They showed videos of the routes to the volunteers and tested how well objects were remembered based on whether they were in the same area or different areas of the environment.

Psychology professor Dr. Sargent started the research on the topic a year ago, but he has students assisting him because he believes it is great help for the students when they do independent research projects in psychology.

“I’ve been studying spatial memory and how it is organized,” Sargent said. “It’s important to join an on-going proven research project. It helps students get one-on-one interaction with professors.”

The three students gathered their research through class assignments.

“This has to do with cognitive psychology,” Howell said. “Each week in class, we were given a journal article that relates to spatial memory and our experiment.”

The three talked about the importance of the poster fair and how it is possible to get people interested in psychology.

“It helps you learn how different people think and how you think,” Kellis said. “Hopefully, in the future, we can discover better ways to measure ‘chunking’ and see if it really occurs in the human mind. We might be able to design things to help have better memory.”

The three presented this poster at Psychonomics 2014, an international, cognitive psychology conference, in Long Beach, Calif. before the Thanksgiving holiday.