Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Retrieval Speeds Context Fluctuation: Why Semantic Generation Enhances Later Learning but Hinders Prior Learning

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Retrieval Speeds Context Fluctuation: Why Semantic Generation Enhances Later Learning but Hinders Prior Learning

Article excerpt

Published online: 11 June 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract In recent work, retrieval has been shown to enhance memory for events following that retrieval. In this set of experiments, we examined the effects of interleaved semantic retrieval on both previous and future learning within a multilist learning paradigm. Interleaved retrieval led to enhanced memory for lists learned following retrieval. In contrast, memory was impaired for lists learned prior to retrieval (Experiment 1). These results are consistent with recent work in multilist learning, directed forgetting, and list-before-last retrieval, all of which indicate a crucial role for retrieval in enhancing mental list segregation. This pattern of results follows clearly from a theoretical perspective in which retrieval drives internal contextual change and in which contextual overlap between study and test promotes better memory. Consistent with that perspective, a 15-min delay before the final test eliminated both effects (Experiment 2). Experiment 2 replicated the results of Experiment 1 with materials and assessments more appropriate for educational settings: Inter-leaved semantic retrieval led learners to be more able to answer questions correctly about texts studied after a retrieval event but less able to do so for texts studied earlier.

Keywords Memory . Context change . Interference

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Testing has many beneficial effects on memory. It is well established that testing previously learned material enhances long-term memory for that tested material (e.g., the testing effect; for a review, see Roediger and Karpicke 2006). Retrieval events can also influence learning by affecting proactive interference (PI; Pastötter, Schicker, Niedernhuber and Bäuml 2011; Szpunar, McDermott and Roediger 2008) and retroactive interference (RI; Jang and Huber 2008), as we will review in more detail below.

The goals of the present set of experiments are to evaluate the effects of retrieval on both future and prior learning within a single experimental paradigm and to more precisely determine the origin of the costs and benefits of retrieval. The working hypothesis presented here, developed from prior work by Sahakyan and Kelley (2002) and Jang and Huber (2008), is that retrieval events lead to greater internal context change and, thus, to greater contextual segregation between events prior to and after the retrieval event. This segregation has the potential to improve retention (by decreasing the interference between competing events) and also to impair retention (by creating a greater disparity between the context present during encoding and the one present during the eventual criterion test). In Experiment 1, we examine the effects of interleaved semantic retrieval on both early and later learning of simple material when a final test immediately follows the study session. Experiment 2 replicates the results of Experiment 1 with more complex text materials. Experiment 3 extends the findings of Experiment 1 with a delayed final test.

The effects of testing on future learning

Although testing is mostly known for its large effect of enhancing memory for the tested material itself, testing also has an influence on both future and prior learning. We will first focus on the effect retrieval has on later learning: overall enhanced performance and a reduction in PI.

In one of the first studies examining how testing influences future learning, Tulving and Watkins (1974) explored the consequences of retrieval within an AB-AC interference paradigm. Having an immediate test following study of the AB list led to superior memory for the yet-to-be-learned AC items than when no test was given after the AB list. One interpretation of this effect is that second-list learning was impaired when the first list was not tested before studying the second list. Other research supported this interpretation by demonstrating that words from untested lists were also more likely to intrude into recall on later tests than words from tested lists (Darley andMurdock 1971). …

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