Article

Semantic Information Activated During Retrieval Contributes to Later Retention: Support for the Mediator Effectiveness Hypothesis of the Testing Effect

Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, W112 Lagomarcino Hall, Ames, IA 50011-3180, USA.
Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition (Impact Factor: 2.86). 06/2011; 37(6):1547-52. DOI: 10.1037/a0024140
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Previous research has proposed that tests enhance retention more than do restudy opportunities because they promote the effectiveness of mediating information--that is, a word or concept that links a cue to a target (Pyc & Rawson, 2010). Although testing has been shown to promote retention of mediating information that participants were asked to generate, it is unknown what type of mediators are spontaneously activated during testing and how these contribute to later retention. In the current study, participants learned cue-target pairs through testing (e.g., Mother: _____) or restudying (e.g., Mother: Child) and were later tested on these items in addition to a never-before-presented item that was strongly associated with the cue (e.g., Father)--that is, the semantic mediator. Compared with participants who learned the items through restudying, those who learned the items through testing exhibited higher false alarm rates to semantic mediators on a final recognition test (Experiment 1) and were also more likely to recall the correct target from the semantic mediator on a final cued recall test (Experiment 2). These results support the mediator effectiveness hypothesis and demonstrate that semantically related information may be 1 type of natural mediator that is activated during testing.

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    • "Such extra information may be activated mainly during more difficult retrieval tasks, when the target information is less readily retrievable and more extensive memory search is required, and may not be activated at all during restudy opportunities, when the target information is re-exposed intact. Support for the account, for instance, comes from studies showing that the testing effect is more beneficial when the initial retrieval practice is made more difficult (Carpenter, 2009; Pyc & Rawson, 2009) and when the delay between study and retrieval practice is increased (Rawson, Vaughn, & Carpenter, 2015), and from studies showing that semantic mediators are more likely to be activated during retrieval than during restudy cycles (Carpenter, 2011). "
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    • "Studies on the testing effect suggest that elaboration, or the generation of additional memory traces, during retrieval may increase the likelihood that the memory trace will be accessible for future retrieval (Roediger and Butler 2011). This mnemonic benefit may be due to the effects of effortful retrieval (Gardiner et al. 1973;Bjork and Bjork 1992;Pyc and Rawson 2007), and/or semantic elaboration (Carpenter 2009Carpenter , 2011). Although the precise mechanisms underlying the testing effect are not well understood , recent fMRI studies found that increased activity in the left inferior parietal lobe and middle temporal gyrus during repeated retrieval of word pairs (but not during passive restudying) predicted better subsequent recall (van denBroek et al. 2013). "
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    • "When asked to make predictions about their own memory performance in a learning test which would be administered a week later, the students in the repeated study condition (SSSS) predicted better performance than those who underwent retrieval practice (STTT). Although accounts of the advantages of repeated retrieval over restudy are limited, it has recently been proposed that retrieval practice promotes elaborative processing (Carpenter, 2009; 2011). The idea is that retrieval cues (either provided to the person attempting to retrieve or present in the learning setting) activate information in long-term memory that is also encoded along with the memory traces of the target and the cues. "
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