The testing effect and recall : exploring the role of attention in long-term retention
The testing effect is a powerful memory-enhancing phenomenon, in which initial testing of previously encoded material improves long-term retention more than repeated studying of material. Divided attention tasks can impair the testing effect when the memory task requires recollection-based memory. The present study investigated the effects of dividing attention during the initial test phase on a later recall test. Participants first studied English/Swahili word pairs under full attention. Next, they performed no additional task, studied the word pairs again, received an initial test under full attention, or received an initial test under divided attention. All participants then returned two days later to complete the final recall assessment. Participants who received an initial test under full attention performed significantly better on the final assessment than participants in all the other conditions, replicating the standard testing effect. Participants who received an initial test under divided attention did not perform significantly better on the final assessment than participants in the study-only conditions. Dividing attention impaired the testing effect even when the initial test performance was equated for those who received an initial test under full attention and divided attention. These findings demonstrate that dividing attention during the initial test phase eliminated the testing effect.
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