It is difficult to separate the study of memory from the study of intelligence, because all too often it is assumed that intelligent people will automatically do better on tests. But there are other important aspects of memory, such as the role of paying attention during the presentation of information we need to store in memory and the influence of psychological factors in the retrieval of information.
In this case, let s consider test anxiety, something which can affect both a student s attention during memory formation and the student s psychological state during memory recovery. Clawson et al. examined test anxiety as a possible basis for racial differences in standardized test scores (the tests were similar to the SAT or ACT). The students lived in the same town, had gone to school together (it was a fairly small town), and there was no difference in grade point average between the black and white students. However, the black students scored significantly worse on the standardized math and language tests. They also had higher test anxiety scores. Of course, the white students with high test anxiety scores also scored poorly on the standardized tests. In a second study, Guida and Ludlow provided similar results for inner-city blacks and students from Chile.
So what s happening here? Why are black students (and some other minority groups) in America experiencing so much more test anxiety even when they sometimes have good grades? What does this tell us about standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, or others? What stage(s) of memory do you think test anxiety is most likely to affect (remember, test anxiety can occur when you study, not just when you sit down to take the test)?
Readings on Memory and Test Anxiety.htm
Memory is often determined by our performance on some test. If we do well, we must have an accurate memory. If not, we either failed to form the memory, or it decayed or was interfered with somehow. Based on this premise, it is difficult to separate the study of memory from the study of intelligence, because all too often it is assumed that intelligent people will automatically do better on tests. But there are other important aspects of memory, such as the role of paying attention during the presentation of information we need to store in memory and the influence of psychological factors in the retrieval of information. Since there is very little information available on cross-cultural factors related directly to memory, in this section I will present two short articles on test anxiety, something which can affect both a student’s attention during memory formation and the student’s psychological state during memory recovery. I will comment on the articles together.
Thomas Clawson, Catherine Firment, and Teresa Trower (1981) Test Anxiety: Another Origin for Racial Bias in Standardized Testing, Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance 13, 210-215
In their brief introduction, Clawson et al. describe the basic differences between trait anxiety and state anxiety. Trait anxiety is a long-lasting tendency to react anxiously towards challenging situations, and is associated primarily with worry. State anxiety is a more specific response to a particular situation (such as a test), and is associated primarily with high emotion. Although it has been shown that high emotion is not as detrimental to test performance as worry, the two factors appear to interact, and the worrying prior to an exam may be significant as early as 5 days before the test (which, of course, includes the time when the student is going to be studying). The authors proposed not only to exam these issues, but also to provide data regarding differences between black and white students.
All 7th and 9th grade students in a community in northeast Florida (a town whose population was 23% black) were given the Test Attitude Inventory (TAI), an instrument which measures both state and trait test anxiety. This test was administered just before a quarterly in-class exam. The authors also obtained the student’s grade point averages, and their language and math percentile scores from the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.
For 7th grade students, whites scored significantly higher on the language and math tests, and they had significantly higher grade point averages. For 9th grade students, whites had significantly higher math and language scores, but the grade point averages were only slightly higher. For both grades, the black students had significantly higher anxiety scores on each subscale of the TAI.
When the individuals with high or low anxiety scores were isolated form the original groups, it was found that students with the high trait anxiety scores (those who are generally anxious) had the greatest differences in their academic performance. When the high trait anxiety students were compared on racial grounds, there was little difference between the whites and blacks in academic performance, but black students were much more likely to have the high trait anxiety scores and to also have high state anxiety scores (the anxious response to specific tests).
While the observation that the black students in this study did more poorly on academic tests than the white students is neither new nor surprising, the explanation is. Normally such differences are explained as the result of the black and white students having had different educational backgrounds. But the students in this study had been together, in one school at a time, since 1st grade. The test anxiety, therefore, loomed much larger as a significant factor in their academic performance. In particular, it should be noted that by the 9th grade there was no difference in overall grade point average between black and white students, but the black students were still performing worse on standardized tests of math and language skills. The authors do not suggest that anxiety scores should be used to negate the performance on students on academic tests, but they do suggest that schools should begin programs to identify and support students with high levels of anxiety. While these programs would also serve white students, a significantly larger proportion of black students would benefit from this type of support.
Frank Guida and Larry Ludlow (1989) A Cross-Cultural Study of Test Anxiety, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 20, 178-190
Guida and Ludlow studied the presence of test anxiety itself in several different groups of 7th and 8th grade students from a black, inner-city neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, from middle- and upper-class towns in Massachusetts, and from Santiago, Chile (including students from all socioeconomic levels). They were interested in the effects of culture, socioeconomic status, and gender. They chose a South American culture in part because of a previous study which had shown that Mexican students (who are culturally more like South Americans than they are like other North Americans) are typically more anxious when it comes to taking tests in school, and that this observation may reflect cultural differences in affiliative obedience and the subsequently greater threat posed by failing the test.
Each student took the Test Anxiety Scale for Children (TASC)and provided demographic information identifying, among other things, their gender and socioeconomic status. A careful and thorough approach was used to translate the TASC into Spanish for the Chilean students. First, two independent, bilingual Chileans translated the test into Spanish. Then a third Chilean reviewed both translations and settled any disputes. Finally, a fourth Chilean back-translated the TASC from Spanish into English, and it was checked for its match to the original English version (which was excellent).
Overall, Chilean students, girls, and children of low socioeconomic status had higher anxiety scores than their counterparts. The most interesting factor, however, appeared to be an interaction between socioeconomic status and culture. The students with the highest anxiety scores were the low socioeconomic status Americans, who were the black, inner-city students from Chicago (which, of course, matches the previous study of Clawson et al.).
The authors propose two main reasons why Chilean students may experience more test anxiety than their American counterparts. First, the two cultures differ with regard to their active vs. passive approaches to enduring stress (Americans are more active, or perhaps reactive). An alternative suggestion, however, is that in countries like Chile, where opportunities for career advancement are very limited, the importance of each test in school is more significant. Thus, there is greater anxiety about the possibility of failure.
As stated above, neither of these articles actually examines memory itself. However, if you ever take a cognitive psychology course you will see that there is much more to memory than simply spitting out information when you take a test. Doing poorly on a test does not necessarily reflect your knowledge. Anxiety can interfere with an individual’s ability to recall information. More importantly, however, anxiety can interfere with an individual’s ability to concentrate and pay attention to information when it is supposed to be learned or studied in the first place. Thus, high levels of trait anxiety, the condition of on-going anxiety about school performance, can severely impair memory formation. This is the condition of students from families of low socioeconomic status, particularly black, inner-city students from America. Many people claim they have test anxiety, and sometimes other people simply view it as another excuse for doing poorly. But when test anxiety is viewed as a factor which interferes with learning and memory formation, rather than as acute feelings of anxiousness during a test itself, we can recognize test anxiety as something which can be identified and possibly treated with psychological/counseling interventions.
Kim Peek, the savant who inspired Rain Man, dies at the age of 58
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 8:44 AM on 23rd December 2009
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The man who inspired the title character in the Oscar-winning movie Rain Man has died.
Kim Peek was 58. His father, Fran, says Peek had a major heart attack on Saturday morning and was pronounced dead at a hospital in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray.
Peek was a savant with a remarkable memory and inspired writer Barry Morrow when he wrote Rain Man, the 1988 movie that won four Academy Awards and took £100million at the box office.
Kim Peek stands on the steps at the Salt Lake City Library in Salt Lake City. Peek, the man who inspired the title character in the Oscar-winning movie “Rain Man” has died at the age of 58
Fran Peek said his son met Morrow at a convention in the early 1980s and the writer was taken with Peek’s knack for retaining everything he heard.
Morrow wrote the script, and the movie went on to win Oscars for best film and best actor for Dustin Hoffman, whose repetitive rants about being an excellent driver and the TV show People’s Court were a hit with moviegoers.
Although the character was technically fictional, Fran Peek said his son was every bit as amazing as Hoffman’s portrayal of him.
And Kim’s true character showed when he toured the world, helping dispel misconceptions about mental disabilities.
‘It was just unbelievable, all the things that he knew,’ Fran Peek said on Monday.
‘He travelled 5,500 miles short of three million air miles and talked to 60million people.’
Smash hit: Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in Rain Man
After his birth in 1951, Peek’s parents were advised to place him in an institution for the mentally disabled.
They refused and he was brought up alongside his brother and sister in Utah.
In his later years, Peek was classified as a ‘mega-savant’ who was a genius in about 15 different subjects, from history and literature and geography to numbers, sports, music and dates.
But his motor skills were limited; he couldn’t perform simple tasks such as dressing himself.
National Public Radio’s Howard Berkes reported for the American broadcaster from Salt Lake City about the 58-year-old.
He said: ‘Peek had severe mental handicaps but reportedly remembered everything he read and heard. He had difficulty with simple things like turning on lights or dressing himself, but his memory was legendary.
‘Give him a date and he’d describe its events. Name a place and he’d name the zip code.’
‘Rain Man made Peek so famous he travelled the globe, displaying his talents as the real “Rain Man”,’ he added.
Nasa studied him because his memory got better as he aged. But in the end, his memory was sharp but his heart gave out.
Peek was born with macrocephaly, damage to the cerebellum, and, perhaps most important, agenesis of the corpus callosum, a condition in which the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is missing.
There is speculation that his neurons made other connections in the absence of a corpus callosum, which results in an increased memory capacity.
According to Peek’s father, Fran, he was able to memorise things from the age of 16-20 months.
He read books, memorized them, and then placed them upside down on the shelf to show that he had finished reading them, a practice he maintained.
He read a book in about an hour, and remembered almost everything he had read, memorising vast amounts of information in subjects ranging from history, literature, geography and numbers to sports, music and dates.
His reading technique consisted of reading the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye and in this way he could read two pages at time with a rate of about 8-10 seconds per page.
Memory man: Kim’s life was changed for ever by the film Rain Man. He developed social skills and a sense of humour after the movie’s success
He could recall the content of some 12,000 books from memory.
Peek did not walk until the age of four, could not button his shirt and had difficulty with other ordinary motor skills, presumably due to his damaged cerebellum, which normally coordinates motor activities.
In psychological testing, Peek scored below average with an IQ of 73.
But unlike many savants, Peek showed increasing social skills, perhaps due to the attention that had come with being perceived as the ‘real Rain Man’.
His father says that his sense of humour had been emerging since 2004 or so.
Also, he had developed well beyond the stage of being a mere repository of vast amounts of information; his skills at associating information he remembers were at least one of the signs of creativity.
He displayed difficulty with abstractions such as interpreting the meanings of proverbs or metaphorical terms of speech.
Although never a musical prodigy, Peek’s musical abilities as an adult were receiving more notice when he started to study the piano.
He apparently remembered music he heard decades ago and could play it on the piano, to the extent permitted by his limited physical dexterity.
Daniel Christensen, a professor with Utah University’s Neuropsychiatric Institute said: ‘He had a depth and breadth of knowledge and a memory that was just unbelievable.
‘He was unique – I don’t know if there will ever be another person quite like Kim.’
In 1984, script writer Barry Morrow met Peek in Arlington, Texas; the result of the meeting was the 1988 movie Rain Man.
The character of Raymond Babbitt, although inspired by Peek, was portrayed as having autism.
Dustin Hoffman, who played Babbitt, met Peek and other savants to get an understanding of their nature and to play the role with accuracy.
Peek’s father later said that until meeting the actor, his son could not look into another person’s face.
The movie caused a number of requests for appearances, which increased Peek’s self-confidence.
Barry Morrow gave Kim his Oscar statuette to carry with him and show at these appearances.
Kim also enjoyed approaching strangers and showing them his talent for calendar calculations by telling them on which day of the week they were born and what news items were on the front page of major newspapers.
Peek had also appeared on television. He traveled with his father, who took care of him and performed many motor tasks that Peek found difficult.
Fran Peek says the funeral will be next Tuesday in Taylorsville. Details are pending.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1237758/Kim-Peek-savant-inspired-Rain-Man-dies-age-58.html#ixzz0b6H8FBFU