Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Congruency Effects on Recognition Memory: A Context Effect

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Congruency Effects on Recognition Memory: A Context Effect

Article excerpt

Two recent studies have reported that incongruent selective attention items are better remembered than congruent items on a surprise recognition memory test. These findings suggest that an increased need for cognitive control may trigger encoding mechanisms at the time of study that result in better recognition of those items at test, a form of the desirable difficulty effect. The experiments in this study demonstrate that this effect can depend on whether differences in selective attention difficulty are blocked or intermixed at the time of encoding. These results suggest that additional encoding time itself does not invariably result in better recognition for more difficult selective attention items. Instead, the dependence of recognition memory on encoding difficulty appears to reflect a context-sensitive control response to encoding difficulty.

Keywords: congruency, recognition, cognitive control, selective attention, desirable difficulty


Deux r?centes ?tudes ont rapport? qu'on se rappelle mieux les ?l?ments incongrus pour l'attention s?lective que les ?l?ments compatibles dans le cadre d'un test de reconnaissance surprise. Ces r?sultats sugg?rent qu'un besoin accru de contr?le cognitif peut activer des m?canismes d'encodage au moment de l'?tude, ce qui entra?ne une meilleure reconnaissance des items durant le test, ce qui laisse entrevoir un type d'effet de difficult? d?sirable. Les exp?riences r?alis?es dans le cadre de la pr?sente ?tude ont montr? que cet effet peut varier selon que les diff?rences dans la difficult? pour l'attention s?lective sont bloqu?es ou m?lang?es au moment de l'encodage. Ces r?sultats sugg?rent qu'un plus long d?lai d'encodage ne donne pas lieu n?cessairement à une meilleure reconnaissance des ?l?ments les plus difficiles pour l'attention s?lective. Plut?t, la d?pendance de la m?moire de reconnaissance à la difficult? d'encodage semble t?moigner d'une r?action de contr?le suscit?e par la difficult? d'encodage variant selon le contexte.

Mots-cl?s : congruence, reconnaissance, contr?le cognitif, attention s?lective, difficult? d?sirable.

Congruency effects are a commonly used tool to study selective attention. For example, in the Stroop task, colour identification times are slower for incongruent (e.g., the word RED presented in green) than for congruent (e.g., the word RED presented in red) trials, an effect commonly attributed to control over selective attention (MacLeod, 1991; Stroop, 1935). An important insight offered by recent research on congruency effects is that they are sensitive to episodic learning and memory processes (e.g., Crump, Gong, & Milliken, 2006; Egner, Delano, & Hirsch, 2007; Funes, Lupiáñez, & Humphreys, 2010; Jacoby, Lindsay, & Hessels, 2003; Kiesel, Kunde, & Hoffmann, 2006; Spapé & Hommel, 2008; Wendt, Kluwe, & Peters, 2006). This observation led to two recent studies that examined the relation between congruency effects and episodic remembering more directly.

Congruency Effects on Recognition

Krebs, Boehler, De Belder, and Egner (2013) had participants complete a face-word Stroop-like task. Male or female faces were overlaid with the word MAN or WOMAN, thus creating both congruent and incongruent face-word stimuli. Participants were slower to indicate the gender of the face on incongruent than on congruent trials. In a following recognition-memory task, memory was better for the incongruent than congruent faces. In a conceptually similar study, Rosner, D'Angelo, MacLellan, and Milliken (2014) presented participants with a pair of red and green spatially interleaved words and asked them to read the red word aloud. The word pair was congruent (the two words were the same) or incongruent (the two words were different). Once again, in a following recognition-memory task, performance was better for the incongruent than congruent items.

Taken together, these results fit at least loosely with the influential conflict monitoring framework, in which response conflict triggers adjustments in cognitive control (see Botvinick, Braver, Barch, Carter, & Cohen, 2001). …

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