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Memory interference and the benefits and costs of testing

Potts, R; (2014) Memory interference and the benefits and costs of testing. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Testing often enhances memory, but memory can be harmed by interference from similar or competing items. This thesis examines two situations in which it has been proposed that testing can be harmful to memory because the test itself increases susceptibility to interference. Experiments 1-8 investigate the effect of generating errors during new learning. Participants learned definitions for unfamiliar English words, or translations for foreign vocabulary, either by generating a response and being given corrective feedback, by reading the word and its definition, or by selecting from a choice of definitions followed by feedback. In a final test of all words, generating errors followed by feedback led to significantly better memory for the correct definition than either reading or making incorrect choices, suggesting that the benefits of generation are not restricted to correctly generated items. Even when information to be learned is novel, errorful generation may play a powerful role in potentiating encoding of corrective feedback. Metacognitive judgments of learning revealed that participants were strikingly unaware of this benefit, judging errorful generation to be a less effective encoding method than reading or incorrect choosing, when in fact it was better. Predictions reflected participants’ subjective experience during learning. A second series of experiments (Experiments 9-10) examines the claim that reactivating a consolidated memory destabilizes it, making it more susceptible to interference from new learning. Participants learned English-Swahili word pairs (List 1) on Day 1 with a final test on Day 3. When memory of List 1 was reactivated in the form of a reminder test immediately before learning Finnish words (List 2) on Day 2, testing, far from impairing List 1 memory, enhanced it, revealing a testing effect. Furthermore, List 2 learning disrupted List 1 memory when there was no reminder test, but reminder testing immunized the memory against interference.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Memory interference and the benefits and costs of testing
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Memory, Interference, Reconsolidation, Learning, Errors
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1426443
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