Date of Award

Spring 1982

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Dupuis, Adrian

Second Advisor

Topetez, Nicholas

Third Advisor

Thompson, Albert

Abstract

There has been a limited number of studies conducted on the importance of nutrition, specifically breakfast, to learning. Results of these studies indicate that the omission of breakfast results in a tendency towards decreased efficiency in the late morning hours, reduced work output, slower mental reactions, increased muscular fatigue and a poor attitude toward school. Estimates suggest that up to one-quarter of American children attend school without having eaten breakfast.

The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether there is a significant decline in memory functioning in a fasting state, as compared with a non-fasting state, over a specific period of time.

The subjects were first and second grade students. All were instructed to abstain from any food or beverage, except water, prior to school arrival on the two consecutive days of the study. Each grade participated in both the treatment and the control groups on alternate days. The control group was fed a nutritionally balanced breakfast before the administration of the measurement instrument, and the treatment group was fed after the testing.

The measurement instrument developed to evaluate short-term memory functioning consisted of the auditory presentation of from three to six digits, with two trials of each digit series. The students were instructed to listen to the digit sequence, then write the digits from memory. The instrument was administered to both the treatment and control groups in three sessions, each thirty minutes apart. The digit sequences were randomly selected and varied with each of the six tests given over the two day period.

A three-way complete factorial analysis of variance yielded one significant main effect (p < .005) for the time of day of the test. The three-way interaction effect of breakfast or no-breakfast, the time of day of the test, and grade level was also found to be highly significant (p < .005). Further analysis indicates that the response difference of the first and second grade students to the breakfast or no-breakfast condition was most apparent on the last of the three testing situations.

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