After some hectic decisions that influenced my career path in the last two years, I’m happy to say that I’m still looking to return to academia and go to grad school, potentially for a PhD in consumer behavior/modeling. I’m also intrigued by the masters programs offered by the GWU Department of Decision Sciences (introduced to me by the wonderful R meetup), but that’s another story.
It’s never too early to think about experiment design and hypotheses, and I thought I’d record one today. While catching up on lectures this afternoon (I’m really enjoying Dan Ariely’s Coursera class on irrational behavior), I was keeping my hands busy by casually swinging around dumbbells, working on shoulder rotation. Obviously, I accidentally hit many objects in my workspace and may have done more damage to my arm than good, but that’s not the point. I’m wondering—does physical movement during information intake affect memory retention? My hypothesis, based merely on my personal preference to take walks when discussing new ideas, is that yes, keeping up light movement while listening to someone corresponds with better memory retention.
Here’s how I would design an experiment:
Take a decently-sized lecture class and divide it into three groups: a control group, a group that is given a light tension band, and a group that is given a very full glass of water. Tell all groups that they are about to watch a video (relevant to the subject of the class, and long enough to require focused concentration for a long time) and then given a quiz. The control group can watch the video as they normally would, with the exception that they must watch passively (i.e., no note taking is allowed). The group with the tension bands will be asked to gently stretch them for the duration of the video. The group with the glass of water will be asked to hold the glass in their laps and sit still so that no liquid is spilled on their clothing (i.e., focus them on an uncomfortable lack of movement). At the end of the video, the experimenter would distribute the quiz and compare performance across groups. My guess is that the tension-band group will do the best, the control group will do second best, and the group with the glass of water would do worst.
I’m actually pretty sure that similar experiments have already been carried out, and I’m publishing this simply to get in the habit of thinking and talking about experimental design. If you’re interested in reading a bit more, a quick Google search pointed me to this 2010 dissertation on purposeful movement in the classroom by Eva P. Pennington (from a quick glance: no statistically significant data, but reports of increased student affect). I’m looking at purposeless movement in my case, but it’s an interesting field. If you know about other studies that answer my hypothesis, please do share!
PS: This post earns me the right to log 561 words on twords.2lch.com! My little behavior app is doing really well, and I’m still very excited about growing it. It’s interesting to get feedback. Here’s what one of the early users said:
I like twords a lot! It’s a lot more useful than I thought it would be, considering I don’t write much. But it’s definitely motivational for me to write more in my blog.
Don’t hesitate to sign up if you’re looking to work on a daily writing habit. I’m always looking for more people to test it and share their impressions. I’ve got such a long way to go, but every step is fun!