What Aspects of Their Memories Do College Students Most Want to Improve?

By Higbee, Kenneth L. | College Student Journal, December 2004 | Go to article overview
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What Aspects of Their Memories Do College Students Most Want to Improve?

Higbee, Kenneth L., College Student Journal

Previous research investigated what aspects of their memories general audiences of people in memory-improvement seminars most wanted to improve. This research examined the same question among college students in memory-skills classes. Students rated the importance of each of 12 aspects of memory. The most important aspects were schoolwork, remembering what they read, remembering facts and details, and remembering people's names. The ratings showed few relationships with gender, grade point average, or year in school, suggesting that there might be more similarities than differences among different kinds of students in their memory concerns. The ratings also showed several similarities with the general audiences.


Many studies have investigated the aspects of their memories for which people report failures and problems; this is usually done by measuring the reported frequency of occurrence of specified memory problems (cf., Gilewski & Zelinski, 1986). Higbee (2003) took a different approach to studying people's memory concerns, by investigating what aspects of memory were most important to people. A general audience of people attending a memory-improvement seminar responded to an open-ended question on what aspects of memory they most wanted to improve, and another general audience answered a questionnaire developed from those responses. The most important aspect was remembering people's names, and there were some gender and age differences in other aspects of memory. Other research has investigated what kinds of remembering are important to more-limited populations, such as the elderly (e.g., Leirer, Morrow, Sheikh, & Pariante, 1990; Reese, Cherry, & Norris, 1999).

The purpose of the present research was to examine the same question among college students, and to see how the responses of students compare with those of the general audiences. In a pilot study, 41 students in a memory-skills course answered the following question at the beginning of the course--"What are the main benefits you hope to get from taking a memory-improvement class? (That is, what are the memory questions or problems that you most want to have answered or solved?)." The answers to this question were categorized and tallied. The four categories with the most frequent answers were schoolwork (e.g., study skills, specific course material) = 51%, people's names and faces # = 24%, everyday tasks (e.g., things to do, where I put something) = 15%, and what I read = 10%. Chi-square comparisons between sub-groups found no significant differences between males and females, between low-GPA and high-GPA students, or among years in school.

The findings of no statistically significant differences among subgroups in the pilot study might have some practical significance, suggesting the possibility that there might be more similarities than differences in memory concerns among different kinds of students. However, another possible explanation might be the lack of statistical power in the comparisons, which led to the present study. This study was conducted to further investigate what aspects of their memories college students most want to improve, using interval-level data that would allow more-powerful statistical analyses than the chi-square tests used on the nominal data in the pilot study.


Like the pilot study, the present study was a quasi-experiment. The participants were college students who were enrolled in another section of the memory-skills course at the same university. The course was taught by the author and is described elsewhere (Higbee, 1999). The 36 participants included 23 males and 13 females, ages 17-26 (M = 21.4, SD = 2.3), with 17 Psychology majors and the other 19 students representing 13 other majors. Years in school included 3 freshmen, 6 sophomores, 10 juniors, and 17 seniors.

At the beginning of the course, all participants completed the Memory Improvement Questionnaire (MIQ), which was developed from the categories of responses that had been given to the open-ended question that students had answered in the pilot study (as well as responses by the general audience of Higbee, 2003, Experiment 1).

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What Aspects of Their Memories Do College Students Most Want to Improve?


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