Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Widening the Boundaries of the Production Effect

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Widening the Boundaries of the Production Effect

Article excerpt

Published online: 21 April 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract Words that are read aloud are more memorable than words that are read silently. The boundaries of this production effect (MacLeod, Gopie, Hourihan, Neary, & Ozubko, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36, 671-685, 2010) have been found to extend beyond speech. MacLeod and colleagues demonstrated that mouthing also facilitates memory, leading them to speculate that any distinct, item-specific response should result in a production effect. In Experiment 1, we found support for this conjecture: Relative to silent reading, three unique productions-spelling, writing, and typing- all boosted explicit memory. In Experiment 2, we tested the sensitivity of the production effect. Although mouthing, writing, and whispering all improved explicit memory when compared to silent reading, these other production modalities were not as beneficial as speech. We argue that the enhanced distinctiveness of speech relative to other productions- and of other productions relative to silent reading- underlies this pattern of results.

Keywords Memory .Word production .Word recognition . Reading

The production effect is the finding that people have better explicit memory for words that they read aloud relative to words that they read silently (Hourihan & MacLeod, 2008; MacLeod, 2011; MacLeod, Gopie, Hourihan, Neary & Ozubko, 2010; Ozubko & MacLeod, 2010). Although the benefit of vocalization for long-term memory had received periodic research attention (Conway & Gathercole, 1987; Dodson & Schacter, 2001; Gathercole & Conway, 1988; Gregg & Gardiner, 1991; Hopkins & Edwards, 1972; Kurtz & Hovland, 1953; MacDonald & MacLeod, 1998; Rosenbaum, 1962), MacLeod and colleagues have recently brought this phenomenon to the fore. They have reported that "production" is a robust mnemonic that enhances both recognition (MacLeod et al., 2010) and recall (Lin & MacLeod, in press; see also Conway & Gathercole, 1987, Exp. 3) and that compares favorably, in terms of its benefits, to established techniques such as generation (Slamecka & Graf, 1978) and enactment (Engelkamp & Krumnacker, 1980).

In explaining the production effect, MacLeod and colleagues (2010; MacLeod, 2011; Ozubko, Gopie & MacLeod, 2012; Ozubko & MacLeod, 2010) have posited a distinctiveness account (inspired by the relational-distinctiveness account of Conway & Gathercole, 1987). Relative to silent reading, reading a word aloud involves the encoding of an additional dimension that stands out as distinct- speech. According to the proceduralist framework (Kolers, 1973; Kolers & Roediger, 1984), the process of vocalizing at study will be retained in a record of that processing. In an explicit memory test, participants can then retrieve this distinctive speech information to determine whether a word was studied. In short, remembering having said a word aloud provides confirmatory evidence that it was studied ("I remember saying that word out loud, so I must have studied it").

Consistent with this distinctiveness account, MacLeod and colleagues (2010) found that the production effect was limited to within-subjects, mixed-list designs, in which both spoken and silent study items occurred. Distinctiveness is relative (Hunt, 2006): Without silent items in the same list, the process of vocalizing would not stand out as distinct. Indeed, when MacLeod et al. used a between-subjects design featuring "pure" lists of either spoken or silent items, there was no longer a reliable memory advantage for words studied aloud (see also Dodson & Schacter, 2001; Hopkins & Edwards, 1972).1

A second boundary condition identified by MacLeod et al. (2010) is that the "produced" responses must uniquely identify studied items (as is the case when words are read aloud). MacLeod et al. found that producing an unrelated response to study items-either by saying "yes" or by pressing an arbitrary key-did not bolster memory for these items relative to silent reading (their Exp. …

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