Impact of Cognitive Loading on Recall of Names
Cassie C. Strickland
Many people report that they have difficulty remembering names. Helder and
Shaughnessy (2008) found that name recall can be improved by multitasking if it
involves a conversation. In the present study, the impact of task loading on name
recall was examined for 39 student volunteers who were asked to play either a
familiar (n=20) or an unfamiliar (n=19) card game. After playing the game through
to completion, each participants was taken aside and shown pictures of their
fellow players. They were asked to recall the player's middle name that was given
at the beginning of the session. The mean number of player names correctly
recalled did not vary across the two game conditions (familiar and unfamiliar) (t
(37) =.603, p>0.05). There may be other factors that influence name recall .
Repetition and rehearsal may be needed for name recall.
• Baddeley and Hitch (1974, 2000) propose the concept of working memory as an
expansion building on the general notion of short-term memory. Baddeley &
Hitch argue that working memory is a limited capacity memory system that
allows for both storage and processing of information.
• Researchers have extensively explored the impact of working memory capacity
on individuals’ ability to preform a second task. Cocchini, Logie, Sala,
MacPherson, and Baddeley (2002) demonstrated that processing within verbal
and visual working memory systems appear to operate independently of one
another. More specifically, verbal working memory was not impacted when
participants were also given a concurrent visual working memory task. This
finding would suggest that it is possible for participants to do more than one
task at a time.
• Research has also demonstrated that, in situations where individuals are asked
to multitask, it is important to have many retrieval opportunities when learning
names. For example, Helder and Shaughnessy (2008) found the more difficult
the task, the greater the effect of participant’s ability to recall names. There
was a 54% recall rate when people heard names more than once in this
experiment. They also found that practicing names improve name recall
however it is smaller after 24 hours.
• In the present study, participants were asked to learn the names of other
participants while engaging in a game. The difficulty level of the game was
manipulated by varying the familiarity of the task. Some volunteers were asked
to play a familiar card game (Uno) while others were asked to play a game that
they had never played before (The Werewolves). It was thought that the
unfamiliar game would put a greater load on working memory and hence result
in lower levels of name recall.
• 39 volunteer participants: 26 female, 13 males: 2 groups, 2 days.
• Day 1 Uno: 9 females, 1 male
• Day 1 The Werewolves: 7 females, 2 males
• Day 2 Uno: 5 females, 5 males
• Day 2 The Werewolves: 6 females, 4 males
METHODS AND PROCEDURES
• Participants were asked to go into one of the study rooms in a university's library.
• Card games that were used: Uno and The Werewolves.
• Participants were asked to introduce themselves to the group using their middle
• Participants’ photos were taken after the introduction.
• At the end of the card games, participants were asked to take a short questionnaire.
• They were then sent out one by one to the experimenters to be tested for name
• Unfamiliar group results indicated that participants remembered 4 to 5 names of the
other players. (Mode= 4 and 5, M=3.24, SD=1.996)
• Familiar group results indicated that participants remembered 3 names of the other
players. (Mode=3, M=3.35, SD=3.35).
• An Independent T-test was used to test name recall and the card games. t (37) =.603,
p>0.05. Not significant.
• First, I would like to thank Reinhardt University and my research director Dr.
Katrina Smith for making this possible. I would also like to thank my classmates
Kristina Jones, Adrienne Lawrence and Aleah Cooper for helping me run my
• The results do not seem to support the original hypothesis. This maybe because
of proactive interference. Proactive interference is when remembering a list of
information becomes more difficult because existing information gets in the
way. In the present study, participants already knew one another’s first names.
This knowledge may have made it more difficult to learn their peer’s middle
names than it would have been to learn the names of strangers.
• One of the factors that may have impacted performance in the present study
was that names were not repeated actively during game play which is
important in name recall.
• Another factor impacting performance may have been the unmatched times of
the card games.
• Future studies should include more participants and should focus on repetition
and rehearsal during game play.
Note: This is the name recall over all
Table 1. Descriptive statistics for name recall