Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Collaboration Can Improve Individual Recognition Memory: Evidence from Immediate and Delayed Tests

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Collaboration Can Improve Individual Recognition Memory: Evidence from Immediate and Delayed Tests

Article excerpt

In two experiments, we tested the effects of collaboration on individual recognition memory. In Experiment 1, participants studied pictures and words either for meaning or for surface properties and made recognition memory judgments individually either following group discussion among 3 members (collaborative condition) or in the absence of discussion (noncollaborative condition). Levels of processing and picture superiority effects were replicated, and collaboration significantly increased individual recognition memory. Experiment 2 replicated this positive effect and showed that even though memory sensitivity declined at longer delays (48 h and 1 week), collaboration continued to exert a positive influence. These findings show that (1) consensus is not necessary for producing benefits of collaboration on individual recognition, (2) collaborative facilitation on individual memory is robust, and (3) collaboration enhances individual memory further if conditions predispose individual accuracy in the absence of collaboration.

Individuals often retrieve the past in a group context. Although extensive research has accumulated on the cognitive processes that mediate individual memory, less is known about the influences of collaboration on the accuracy of individual memory. We report experiments designed to test this relationship.

The cognitive literature on collaborative memory is modest, and much of it has focused on group performance. Researchers have contrasted the product of a collaborative group with that of a nominal group consisting of individuals working alone, whose nonredundant responses were then pooled. Much of this evidence comes from free recall measures and reveals a collaborative inhibition effect, whereby recall of collaborative groups (of 3 members) is worse than that of nominal groups of equal size (Basden, Basden, Bryner, & Thomas, 1997; Weldon & Bellinger, 1997).

In contrast to its inhibitory effect on recall, collaboration has been shown to improve the accuracy of group performance in recognition memory (Clark, Hori, Putnam, & Martin, 2000). This finding makes sense because recognition memory minimizes the role of a retrieval-blocking mechanism that is presumed to impair collaborative recall (Basden et al., 1997). However, a recognition memory task involves decisions on studied as well as nonstudied items, and the presence of nonstudied items can potentially increase false alarm responses in the group. Interestingly, Clark et al.'s findings showed a net benefit of collaboration in the form of increased memory sensitivity, or d".

Collaboration can influence memory in yet another important way-that is, by modulating the memory of the individual who engaged in group collaboration. Collaborative reconstruction of past events among individuals is an everyday experience; people discuss past company meetings, faculty meetings, or family vacations. Information from such collaborations must inevitably influence the quality, quantity, and accuracy of individual memory. In a handful of recent studies, the effects of prior collaboration have been examined; increased accuracy was reported in some cases, and decreased accuracy was reported in others. These studies typically used the sequential process of prior collaboration on later individual memory, whereas we focus on effects of collaboration on individual memory on a trial-by-trial basis, for reasons explained below. We first review the relevant studies to situate our work.

Positive influence of collaboration on later individual memory has been reported in free recall of words, pictures, and stories (Weldon & Bellinger, 1997; see also Basden, Basden, & Henry, 2000, and Basden, Reysen, & Basden, 2002, for veridical memory conditions). In Weldon & Bellinger's ( 1997, Experiment 1) study, participants studied two lists of unrelated words and performed two successive recalls (Recall 1 and Recall 2) in one of four combinations: (1) Recall 1 individually and Recall 2 individually (II), (2) Recall 1 collaboratively and Recall 2 collaboratively (CC), (3) Recall 1 individually and Recall 2 collaboratively (IC), and (4) Recall 1 collaboratively and Recall 2 individually (CI). …

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