by Brody Truce
Senior Staff Writer
Name games have long been a staple of freshman orientation programs at colleges around the country. In the past few decades, these games have changed very little and no research has been done to determine their effectiveness. Misty Koran, a PhD candidate in higher education at The College of Eastern Nevada, decided to do something about that.
“As they’re traditionally used, name games are only a moderately effective mnemonic means of retaining information; most subjects only remember about 39% of the names presented to them in a ten minute session and forget the other 61%.” Koran theorized that providing either a reward for remembering names or a punishment for forgetting names might increase the effectiveness of name games.
Subjects in Test Group A received a piece of toffee candy for each name they remembered. Subjects in Test Group B received no reward for remembering names. Subjects in Test Group C were administered increasingly painful shocks for forgetting names using a model similar to that of Stanley Milgram during his famous experiments on obedience in the 1960s.
Koran completed three rounds of her experiment before The College of Eastern Nevada’s Institutional Review Board halted the study, denouncing Koran’s methods as archaic and unethical.
“This sort of behavior was questionable during Milgram’s experiments five decades ago,” explained Dr. Richard Long, chair of the college’s institutional review board. “We have serious concerns about the lack of judgment displayed by Ms. Koran and her advisor.”
Misty, who is about to finish her second year of doctoral work at the college, was placed on academic leave pending a review of her case.
“The accusations were outrageous,” explained Misty. “Even at the highest setting, the electrical shocks administered were less powerful than a common electrical prod used to incapacitate cattle. There was no threat of permanent physical harm in this experiment.”
Prior to being stopped, Koran’s research showed some interesting results.
“Subjects who believed that they would receive shocks as punishment were 8.3 times more likely to remember names than the control group and twice as likely to remember names as the group that was promised toffee candy rewards.”
The College of Eastern Nevada reinstated Koran earlier this week, but revoked her academic scholarship. The college’s institutional review board authorized Misty to continue her work, provided she amend the parameters of her third subject group; subjects in the “punishment” group will now receive frowny face stickers each time they fail to correctly recall a name.
“I’m skeptical about whether or not a frowny face sticker constitutes enough of a threat to significantly impact significant name retention,” said Misty of the proposed changes to her study, “but I believe the impact will be measurable.”
To pay for the remainder of her doctoral education, Misty plans to patent and market a line of mildly embarrassing stickers that can be applied to freshman who fail to remember the names of people on their floors, available for purchase this July.