Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Evaluating the Basis of the Between-Group Production Effect in Recognition

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Evaluating the Basis of the Between-Group Production Effect in Recognition

Article excerpt

For several decades now, researchers have relied heavily on a small stable of encoding tasks to coax out memory principles, such as imagery (Paivio, 1971), elaboration (Craik & Lockhart, 1972), generation (Slamecka & Graf, 1978), and enactment (Engelkamp & Krumnacker, 1980). Occasionally a new task emerges, such as survival-related processing (Nairne, Thompson, & Pandeirada, 2007), and memory researchers rush to scrutinize it. Although such encoding tasks can improve memory, it would be rather laborious to apply them to the types of information we need to encode in everyday life.

In contrast, saying items aloud takes very little effort-yet this simple act can yield a robust memory advantage relative to silent reading. Hopkins and Edwards (1972) reported this effect during the "golden era" of encoding task discoveries, but their finding was overlooked, or perhaps overshadowed. Hopkins and Edwards obtained a recognition advantage for aloud items when aloud versus silent reading was varied across items within a list. Importantly, the effect was absent in a between-groups design, leading them to the conclusion that "the study list must be mixed with respect to pronunciation" (p. 536). MacLeod, Gopie, Hourihan, Neary, and Ozubko (2010) dubbed this simple, potent encoding task the production effect (PE). They replicated the within-group PE, as well as the absence of a between-group PE. They and others have also identified several additional boundary conditions. For example, a PE occurs only when distinct responses are made for each produced word (e.g., mouthing, writing, typing, and singing, but not saying "yes" or pressing a space bar for each item; see Forrin, MacLeod, & Ozubko, 2012; MacLeod et al., 2010; Quinlan & Taylor, 2013).

The effects of production have typically been measured in a within-group design. Fawcett (2013) noted that although the between-group PE was significant in only one reported experiment at that time (Gathercole & Conway, 1988; Experiment 5), recognition in other between-groups experiments was also typically greater for aloud items. Fawcett conducted a meta-analysis and found a significant between-group PE across studies. Bodner, Taikh, and Fawcett (2014) and Forrin, Groot, and MacLeod (2016) have since provided additional replications of this effect. By stark contrast, a between-group PE consistently has been absent in free recall (Forrin & MacLeod, 2016; Jones & Pyc, 2014; Jonker, Levene, & MacLeod, 2014; Lambert, Bodner, & Taikh, 2016), leading some researchers to propose that production disrupts the encoding of item-order information that is normally used to reconstruct a study list.

Accounting for the Production Effect

The PE has typically been attributed to one or another version of a distinctiveness account. According to Hunt (2006), distinctiveness refers to the "processing of difference in the context of similarity" (p. 12; see also Hunt, 2013; Murdock, 1960). Applied to the PE, the item-specific processing required by production tasks (e.g., planning and carrying out a response, hearing oneself) help make those items distinct relative to a backdrop of unproduced items (Conway & Gathercole, 1987). Here we refer to this influence of production as an effect of relative distinctiveness. MacLeod et al. (2010) suggested that "at the time of test, a word that was produced at study has an additional source of discrimination relative to a word that was not produced" (p. 681).

Effects of relative distinctiveness have been ascribed to both memorybased and decision-based processes (McCabe, Presmanes, Robertson, & Smith, 2004). Memory-based processes are those that operate at encoding. Produced (vs. unproduced) items are rendered distinctive in memory by the extra processing that they receive, and thus they are easier to retrieve at test. Decision-based processes, in contrast, focus on the strategies participants use during retrieval. …

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