Is semantic processing useful for understanding the word’s meaning?
When processing a word semantically, i.e., when looking at the meaning, we think about it more deeply than when we simply look at the way the word appears on paper or the way it sounds when said out loud. As a result of this deeper processing, we are consequently able to remember the word better – it is more deeply coded into our memory meaning it’s less likely to be lost and therefore more easily brought into working memory. These results are co-inside with data found by other researchers such as Craik and Lockhart who concluded that words processed more deeply cause better retention of said words. Another example of research which appears to support the assertion that thinking about language more deeply leads to better memory was done by Bransford et al. who gave participants two sentences: “A mosquito is like a doctor because both draw blood” and “A mosquito is like a racoon because they both have head, legs and jaws.” In this experiment, participants more easily recalled the first sentence. Due to the first sentence being somewhat strange, participants had to think about it more deeply to process it. As a result, making it easier to recall. Though done in a slightly different way, this experiment still demonstrates the power of greater depth of processing on recall ability. In addition to this, research done by Morris et al. also provides some support to the results retrieved in this experiment. They concluded that if participants are required to remember the meaning of the word when retrieving it, semantic processing is most useful. All of these experiments, though addressing the issue from a slightly different angle, provide us with the conclusion that semantic processing – the deepest kind – leads to a more accurate recall, in line with the original hypothesis.
One factor which may have affected the results of the experiment is that everyone would have finished completing part one at different times which may have allowed some participants to go back and rehearse the words. This is an issue because rehearsal would have increased their ability to remember and as a result skewed the results. One way in which this could have been controlled was to experiment one at a time in the presence of an experimenter. Alternatively, it may have been better to have more than one experimenter in the room so that they could control for this issue as having each participant perform the task individually would take up quite a considerable amount of time.