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


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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    ABSTRACT: This study sought to determine whether nonselective retrieval practice after study can reduce memories' susceptibility to intralist interference, as it is observed in the list-length effect, output interference, and retrieval-induced forgetting. Across 3 experiments, we compared the effects of nonselective retrieval practice and restudy on previously studied material with regard to these 3 forms of episodic forgetting. When study of an item list was followed by a restudy cycle, recall from a longer list was worse than recall from a shorter list (list-length effect), preceding recall of studied nontarget items impaired recall of the list's target items (output interference), and repeated selective retrieval of some list items attenuated recall of other nonretrieved items at test (retrieval-induced forgetting). In contrast, none of these effects arose when study of the list was followed by a nonselective retrieval cycle. The findings are consistent with a combination of contextual variability theory and a variant of study-phase retrieval theory that assumes that retrieval can create more distinct context features for retrieved items than restudy does for restudied items, thus reducing items' susceptibility to interference relative to restudy cycles. The findings add to the view that nonselective retrieval practice can stabilize and consolidate memories. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2016 · Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition
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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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    Full-text · Article · Feb 2016 · Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.)
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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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    ABSTRACT: Karpicke and Blunt (2011) showed in college students that retrieval practice produced more learning from educational texts than concept mapping on a 1-week delayed test. This finding is surprising since concept mapping is thought to involve elaborative processing. Hence, the present study (N=84; 76 females) aimed to examine whether the advantage of repeated retrieval remains when concept mapping is performed by ad hoc trained students or students who regularly utilise concept maps to prepare for exams. While the results essentially replicate Karpicke and Blunt’s finding which shows that retrieval practice leads to better overall performance than concept mapping, this effect was less pronounced for people with experience using this technique than it was for trained participants. These findings point to the need to take retrieval-based learning into account in educational settings as well as to further investigate the conditions that may make retrieval activities more effective than concept mapping.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Learning and Instruction
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