Memorathon Game

Memorathon is an on-line game in which a person is expected to repeat a sequence of buttons provided by an electronic device. Each time you successfully repeat the given sequence of buttons, the sequence gets longer. The challenge is to remember as long a sequence as possible. Cognitive psychologists test short-term memory using serial recall, which evaluates the ability of people to recall information in the specified order in which it was presented. Measuring how many items a subject can remember in order without an error, called memory span, is also studied. The Memorathon Game is an example of serial recall and memory span.


This on-line game provides students the opportunity to design multiple versions of the Memorathon Game in order to test which variables have the largest effect on memory. You can leave all the variables blank when you are simply trying out the game, however, if you want to find your score in the database of results, input any specific course ID and student ID.


The following link allows you to play the Memorathon Game


In the following activities, students will have the opportunity to design and analyze an experiment. They will

  • Formulate a hypothesis test about the number of items subject can remember
  • Determine how to collect data that best addresses their research question.
  • Collect data
  • Check model assumptions
  • Analyze the data
  • Draw conclusions within the context of their study


Z-test or 1-sample t-test: Student Handout

This activity is designed to help introductory statistics students bridge the gap between traditional homework problems and a true research project.


2-sample t-tests or paired t-test:

This activity is designed to build upon students' knowledge of t-tests to an application that emphasizes the differences between 2-sample t-tests or paired t-tests.


Research Project

Students are asked to conduct a research project using the Memorathon game and a recent paper in psychology. This project is provided in Chapter 5 of Practicing Statistics.


Instructors Notes for the Research Project:

Prerequisites: This lab can easily be done as a 2-sample t-test or a paired t-test using one explanatory variable. If students are planning to conduct a multifactor experiment, they should read and answer questions from Chapter 4: Design and Analysis of Experiments. More complex designs, such as within subjects designs, are discussed in Chapter 5: Block, Split-Plot and Repeated Measure Designs.


Research Project Materials:

  • Computer lab space is needed to conduct the experiment, which can be done inside or outside of the regularly scheduled class time.
  • In any experiment involving humans, Institutional Review Board approval should be received from your institution. It may be best to receive a general approval for all Memorathon experiments in your course. Even if you do receive general approval, it may be appropriate for the students to prepare an IRB proposal as a class assignment, even if it is not sent to the board.
  • Surprenant's article should be found through library resources such as PsycINFOfor your class.
  • Determine the name of your course (or group) ID. Any alphanumeric code without spaces is acceptable. However, human responses should be confidential and actual names should not be used as student IDs. You may want to search the database to determine if a Group ID has already been used.
  • Other materials may be needed depending on student design.


Project Goals:

  1. Experience statistics as it is practiced by researchers in psychology:
    • Collect data appropriate to a specified purpose, and recognize limitations in existing data.
    • Explain the benefits of the statistical approach to design of experiments and use it.
    • Analyze data using appropriate graphs and numerical tools (primarily ANOVA).
    • Derive appropriate, actionable conclusions from data analysis.
    • Present results and conclusions in both technical and non-technical terms, in writing and orally.
  2. Develop a systematic model for development of an experimental design:
    • Describe the role of statistical thinking and methods for problem solving.
    • Discuss the value of understanding, quantifying, and reducing variation.
    • Develop an understanding of how statistics is integral to research in cognitive psychology.
    • Determine the appropriate questions statistical consultants should ask.
    • Develop the ability to read scientific literature

Paper Review: I have found that some students are initially frustrated or intimidated when they are asked to read a research paper outside of their major. In my experience, providing more time to read the paper has not been helpful. It may, however, be appropriate to:

  • Clarify that the paper review questions are worth only a small amount of the overall grade
  • Allow students to complete the assignment in groups
  • Allow students to turn in a revised version of their paper review questions after they are discussed in class


Class Discussion: I suggest spending at least part of three separate class periods to discuss the Surprenant (2001) paper and develop a class project or several group projects. It is helpful to initially identify that your goal as a professor is not to be able to answer all of their questions about current research in cognitive psychology, but to teach them a process in which they can find their own answers.

Since the Surprenant paper is somewhat complex, you may want to consider additional discussion topics:

  • You can instruct the students to go to the library and read the chapter on memory/remembering from any introductory psychology book. Ask them to identify some additional factors that influence memory.
  • If you want students to find their own research papers on serial recall or memory span, PsycINFO is a good psychology resource. However, there are some difficulties with conducting a literature search for papers with tests similar to this Memorathon Game. Many papers have multiple tests with only a few containing sounds or tones. Since tone is typically not in the title of these papers, they are hard to find. In addition, tones are often the control conditions for words, so many papers primarily testing word memory will show up in the search.

Step 1: Spend at least 20 minutes discussing the paper review questions. Students may not feel qualified to design a psychology study, but they often can suggest appropriate modifications to a given study. Start students thinking about their own primary research questions and ask them:

  • How would you design a test to answer these questions?
  • Which factors and what levels could be used?
  • Which questions relate to main effects and which relate to interaction effects?
  • How can you design an experiment that is general enough to be of scientific interest, but specific enough that it can be conducted within your limited time frame?

Step 2: Invite a psychologist to the class (or a statistician if you are a psychologist) to answer student questions that are beyond your scope of knowledge.

  • It was very helpful for my students to hear from a researcher that he/she did not know all of the answers to their questions.
  • My students seemed to be somewhat surprised that they could contribute to science by conducting an experiment that has never been specifically studied before. Having a scientist in each field enforce the idea that science in not just a collection of facts but an ongoing exploratory process was very helpful for my students.

Step 3: After students have submitted their experimental ideas, the class can vote on one experiment to conduct as an entire class. This allows you to test more factors and levels with replicates in less time. However, each group of students could just as easily design and analyze their own experiments. Note that there are options for at least additional explanatory variables. My students having included time of day, gender, and major in their experiments.

Final Paper or Poster Discussion: During the in-class review day, spend some time discussing how the process details (which are rarely discussed in textbooks and are often only given cursory comments in research papers) can significantly impact the analyses and conclusions of the data. My students are typically surprised by:

  • The amount of time and effort needed to appropriately conduct experiments
  • The numerous occasions in which an experiment can so easily become biased

Grading: I would suggest 50 points for the entire project (this is the same value as an exam in my course).

  • 5 points for Day 1, the Surprenant review
  • 10 points for Day 2, experimental design
  • 5 points for lab procedures
  • 5 points for appropriate comments and suggestions on other student papers
  • 25 points for the final paper or poster

If your institution does not have an Institutional Review Board, you can find more information on registration as well as educational materials at


Thanks to Tietronix software, Grinnell Professors Sam Rebelsky and Henry Walker, and Grinnell MAP students Betsy Lorton, Sarah Marcum, Arunabh Singh, Andrew Applebaum, Alex Cohn, Nathan Levin, and Jeffrey Thompson for creating, editing and maintaining the on-line game.