Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Easily Perceived, Easily Remembered? Perceptual Interference Produces a Double Dissociation between Metamemory and Memory Performance

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Easily Perceived, Easily Remembered? Perceptual Interference Produces a Double Dissociation between Metamemory and Memory Performance

Article excerpt

Published online: 5 March 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract A recent candidate for explaining metamemory judgments is the perceptual fluency hypothesis, which proposes that easily perceived items are predicted to be remembered better, regardless of actual memory performance (Rhodes & Castel Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 137:615-625, 2008). In two experiments, we used the perceptual interference manipulation to test this hypothesis. In Experiment 1, participants were presented with intact and backward-masked words during encoding, followed by a metamemory prediction (a list-wide judgment of learning, JOL) and then a free recall test. Participants predicted that intact words would be better recalled, despite better actual memory for words in the perceptual interference condition, yielding a crossed double dissociation between predicted and actual memory performance. In Experiment 2, JOLs were made after each study word. Item-by-item JOLs were likewise higher for intact than for backward-masked words, despite similar actual memory performance for both types of words. The results are consistent with the perceptual fluency hypothesis of metamemory and are discussed in terms of experience-based and theory-based metamemory judgments.

Keywords Perceptual interference · Metamemory · Perceptual fluency

Metamemory refers to beliefs and judgments about how memory operates. These beliefs and judgments are impor- tant because they guide choices about how we deploy cog- nitive resources. For example, if a student believes that some facts are likely to be remembered for a test but others are not, he or she may allocate more study time to the latter. If an instructor perceives some material to be harder to learn, more class time may be spent on that material, as compared with material thought to be easier. If metamemory does not accurately predict memory performance, however, the allo- cation of cognitive resources may be far from optimal. One potentially misleading heuristic for metamemory is based on perceptual fluency. The present study shows that a manipu- lation of perceptual fluency, the perceptual interference ma- nipulation, produces a crossed double dissociation between metamemory and actual memory performance: Perceptual interference reduces judgments of learning (JOLs) while enhancing recall, as compared with a perceptually intact control condition.

Research on metamemory has attempted to delineate the heuristics and cues that guide metamemory predictions and has sometimes found that these heuristics are not aligned with actual memory performance (e.g., Koriat, 1997; Koriat & Bjork, 2005; Kornell, Rhodes, Castel, & Tauber, 2011). A recent candidate is perceptual fluency, the ease with which a stimulus can be perceived during memory encoding. It has been known for quite some time that manipulations of perceptual fluency during retrieval can produce memory illusions-for example, the belief that a more easily per- ceived test item is likely to be an old item, a form of memory misattribution in which present perceptual ease is mistakenly assumed to indicate the stimulus's prior presen- tation (e.g., Jacoby & Whitehouse, 1989). More recently, it has been suggested that perceptual fluency during encoding may induce a complementary illusion, the illusion that a more easily perceived item is more likely to be remembered on a later test, despite the fact that ease of processing during encoding does not typically enhance later memory. To ex- amine this possibility, Rhodes and Castel (2008) varied the font size for study words under the assumption that a larger font would make reading easier (i.e., perception more flu- ent) than would a small font. The large words were rated as more likely to be recalled on a later memory test but, in fact, led to the same level of recall as words in small font (a finding replicated in subsequent research; Kornell et al., 2011; McDonough & Gallo, 2012; Miele, Finn, & Molden, 20111). …

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