Short-term memory lasts as long as it says, short! Researchers think the time allocation of short-term memory is between fifteen and thirty seconds, and in this time frame our brains are capable of taking in, by the time we are in our mid-teens, up to seven pieces of information, which happens to be the length of a typical phone number.
According to Sprenger (page 48), the amount of space you have for holding items in short-term memory is dependent upon your mental age. Children around the age of three have one memory space, and this space is increased by one every other year until around the age of fifteen, when capacity is reached at seven spaces. Turns out that interest and prior knowledge can cause two spaces to be added or subtracted, making the total space in short-term memory either five or nine. This sounds to me like short-term memory space can fluctuate based upon the learner’s response to the circumstance being experienced.
You can test your short-term memory with this NBC Nightly News Interactive Quiz. There is also a large selection of memory experiments at Neuroscience For Kids and towards the bottom of the long page there are a slew of Memory Methods and Techniques.
This is the fifth of about twenty or fewer posts and for further information about this series, please read Closings and Openings. As you follow the development of this activity, please feel free to chime in with suggestions or questions!
Click to see a full size version of the Short Term Memory Quiz screen.