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Searching Under Cups for Clues about Memory: An Online Demonstration

This web page provides instructions and information regarding a demonstration which helps students better understand the way people search short-term memory. This demonstration involves rapidly searching under cups for a ball and has been shown to successfully increase understanding of Sternberg's (1966) short-term memory scanning task (see Kahan & Mathis, 2007; click here for a copy of the abstract) (pdf format).

The demonstration can either be conducted manually (using small cups and aluminum foil) or online (using virtual cups and balls). A 50 minute class period should be devoted to this activity if it is conducted manually whereas the entire activity can be completed in 10-15 minutes using the electronic version.

Instructions for the manual version of this demonstration can be found by clicking here (pdf format).

The electronic version of this demonstration was created using Macromedia Authorware V6.0. We have created this program so that it will run either locally on any PC computer or online through a web browser (either Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Netscape Navigator).

We have tested both the executable and web-based versions of this demonstration on Gateway and Dell computers running Windows 95, 98, and XP.

Click here to download the executable version that will run on your PC computer (zip format). You will need to extract all of these files using WinZip (or a similar program). When you extract the files you should have "SternbergToP.exe" located in a unique directory and the files "JPEGIMP.X32", "MIX32.X32", "MIXVIEW.X32", & "VIEWSVC.X32" located in the folder "XTRAS". Note: It is important to maintain this file structure -- do NOT move the files out of the XTRAS folder.

Click here to use the online version. In order for the online version to run properly your students will need to download a free plugin. If you choose to have your students use the online version you can send them directly to this URL:

If you have difficulties running this demonstration, please visit the Adobe website for troubleshooting tips (click here to visit Adobe). Alternatively, you can send an email to Todd Kahan (tkahan at for help resolving the problem.

If you are an Authorware programmer you may dowload the source code for this demonstration by clicking here. Please feel free to edit the source code to suit your needs.

Note: This site has links to the demonstration only, not the experiment reported in Kahan & Mathis (2007), which contained control conditions and quiz questions.


Todd Kahan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
Bates College
Lewiston, ME 04240