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Research Activity


2 decks of playing cards. Each deck should be separated into half decks—one of red cards and one of black cards.

Establish Prior Knowledge

Discuss with students whether they can learn something new and remember something old at the same moment. For example, suppose a friend was wearing a new jacket. How long would it take you to remember what the old jacket looked like? Tell students that, in the Snapshot they are about it see, scientists conduct a study to see if the tasks of learning something new and remembering something old compete for brain time.


Have students watch the Snapshot and read the synopsis. Divide the class into four groups. Remind students that the study showed that when learning and remembering were performed within 1.2 seconds a region in the brain quickly switched to either learning mode or remembering mode. Tell students they will have the opportunity of demonstrating this in the following activity called “Concentration.”

  1. Distribute a half deck of all black or all red playing cards to each group.
  2. Have groups lay the cards down in 4 rows—two rows of 7 cards and two of six. Have groups decide who will go first.           
  3. The first player chooses any two cards and turns them over. If they are the same number or rank, then that player wins the pair and goes again. If they are not the same, the cards are turned over and the next player goes. Play continues until the last pair has been picked up.
  4. Remind students that, in the study, learning and remembering were done within 1.2 seconds. Therefore, they should try to make their moves as quickly as possible.


When groups are done, allow students time to discuss their experiences with the game. Then, use the following questions to stimulate discussion.

  • Do you think playing quickly was more difficult than if you had played at a normal pace? Why?
  • When you turned over a new card how much time do you think it took for you to remember whether it had a match and where the match was?
  • Have you ever felt a “traffic jam” in your brain when you learned something and had to quickly remember something? What was it like?