The Effects Of Increased Arousal Via Biofeedback On Immediate Memory In The Retarded

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of increased physiological arousal on immediate memory in the moderately retarded as measured by a digit span and word span test. Research in the field of mental retardation has shown that the only area in which the retarded are particularly deficient is that of immediate memory. Utilizing the notions advanced by Hebb, it was postulated that the major difficulty with immediate memory in the moderately retarded is due to underarousal of the reticular activating system and of the organism in general. Thus, this study attempted to increase physiological arousal as a means to enhance immediate memory. Physiological arousal was increased by means of biofeedback training on a Cyborg P303 Clinical EMG (electromyogram) machine.The following hypotheses were advanced: (1) moderately retarded children would perform better under the Arousal condition than in the No Arousal condition, (2) Delay would decrease performance in both the Arousal and No Arousal condition, and (3) performance on Digit Span recall would be better than on Word Span recall due to the more complex nature of remembering words as opposed to random number digits which are free of contextual ties. All of the hypotheses were supported. In addition, an Arousal by Delay interaction was found in that the advantage of approximately 22% in both Digit and Word Span under the No Delay condition was reduced to 7% for Digit Span under Delay while remaining at 22% for Word Span under Delay.The implications of this research on the teaching of and working with the retarded are discussed as well as its applicability to other populations (i.e., the elderly). Future avenues of research also are discussed.


Psychology, Developmental

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