Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

The Effects of Divided Attention on Encoding Processes in Memory: Mapping the Locus of Interference

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

The Effects of Divided Attention on Encoding Processes in Memory: Mapping the Locus of Interference

Article excerpt

Abstract

Despite the detrimental effects of divided attention at encoding on later memory performance, results described in the literature do not unequivocally specify which processes are interrupted during encoding by participants' occupation with a concurrent task. Using a processing analysis framework where the encoding process is viewed as a multiphase mental activity, the current research investigated this issue using a new differential temporal interference paradigm where the study phase of single words was interrupted at different temporal segments. In two experiments, we used performance on both memory and online choice reaction time tasks to assess whether such differential interference would produce different degrees of reduction in participants' later memory performance, as well as changes in the attentional resources required to execute each of the encoding phases. Measures of memory and concurrent task performance in the two experiments converged on similar patterns, showing that all phases of encoding are affected by the concurrent task. However, the initial encoding phase, which is tentatively associated with the initial registration of information, seems especially vulnerable to interference.

Résumé Malgré les effets préjudiciables de l'attention divisée au codage sur le rendement ultérieur de la mémoire, les résultats disponibles dans la documentation ne permettent pas d'identifier clairement les processus qui sont interrompus pendant le codage par l'occupation du participant dans une tâche concurrente. À l'aide d'un cadre d'analyse de traitement où le processus de codage est perçu comme une activité mentale à multiples phases, cette recherche se penche sur cette question à l'aide d'un nouveau paradigme d'interférence temporelle différentielle où la phase d'étude de mots simples a été interrompue à différents segments temporels. Dans le cadre de deux expériences, nous nous sommes servis de l'exécution de tâches de mémoire et de temps de réaction au choix en ligne afin de déterminer si une telle interférence différentielle produisait des niveaux différents de réduction de rendement dans la mémoire ultérieure des participants, ainsi que des changements dans les ressources attentionnelles requises pour exécuter chacune des phases de codage. Les mesures de la mémoire et de l'exécution des tâches concurrentes dans les deux expériences convergeaient vers des modèles similaires, ce qui révèle que toutes les phases du codage sont influencées par la tâche concurrente. Cependant, la phase de codage initiale, qui est provisoirement associée à l'enregistrement initial de l'information, semble tout particulièrement vulnérable à l'interférence.

Studies using the divided attention (DA) paradigm have shown that dividing participants' attention between the encoding of the information presented and performing a secondary task resulted in a clear detrimental effect on free recall, cued recall, and recognition memory pe/formance relative to conditions where full attention is paid to encoding the items (e.g., Baddeley, Lewis, Eldridge, & Thomson, 1984; Craik, Govoni, Naveh-Benjamin, & Anderson, 1996; Fernandes & Moscovitch, 2000, 2002; Murdock, 1965; NavehBenjamin, Craik, Gavrilescu, & Anderson, 2000; NavehBenjamin, Craik, Guez, & Dori, 1998; Reinitz, Morrissey, & Demb, 1994). Divided attention at encoding was shown to have a similar effect on a variety of memory features, including memory for spatial location (Naveh-Benjamin, 1987), and memory for frequency of occurrence (Naveh-Benjamin & Jonides, 1986).

For example, Craik et al. (1996) showed that encoding single words and word pairs results in a reliable decrement to secondary task performance. Furthermore, manipulating emphasis by instructing participants to stress the memory task, the secondary task, or both tasks equally, has complementary effects on the two tasks: As attention is switched to the secondary task and away from the memory task, memory performance declines and secondary task performance improves. …

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