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Title:Retrieval cue variability: when and why are two meanings better than one?
Author(s):Finley, Jason R.
Director of Research:Benjamin, Aaron S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Benjamin, Aaron S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Brewer, William F.; Dell, Gary S.; Gonsalves, Brian D.; Ross, Brian H.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):retrieval variability
encoding variability
retrieval strategy
Abstract:Much is known about the memory benefits of encoding variability, but the effects of retrieval variability (or diversity) remain largely unexplored. The current project investigates the possible benefits and detriments of retrieval cue variability in episodic memory tasks, the processes underlying such effects, and how those effects may interact with encoding conditions. Six experiments tested participants’ recall of balanced homographs when cued with a single meaning or with two meanings. Based on the principle of congruity between encoding and retrieval (e.g., transfer-appropriate processing), I predicted that double-meaning cues would be superior by virtue of providing two routes to retrieval, at least one of which would likely overlap with an encoded single meaning. However, single-meaning cues were in fact superior when target homographs had been studied alone (Experiment 1) or not studied at all (Experiment 2). However, when the cue words were disambiguated by being presented with the targets during study, double-meaning retrieval cues indeed yielded higher recall (Experiments 3 and 6). Experiment 4 showed that, when the procedure allowed it, participants often used two double-meaning retrieval cues together in a synergistic way to better home in on the target. Experiments 5 and 6 showed that retrieval cue variability can yield benefits or costs depending on encoding conditions. Double-meaning cues yielded higher performance than single-meaning cues that were incongruent with the encoded meaning, but lower performance than single-meaning cues that were congruent with the encoded meaning. Experiment 6 also showed that participants recalled more when tested with the specific cues that they selected from a set of choices at study, but that they did not have good insights on the benefits of retrieval cue diversity. Overall, results suggested that retrieval cue variability is beneficial to the extent that cues are unambiguous and that it is not redundant with variability induced at encoding. Furthermore, retrieval cue variability can be useful as a hedge against uncertainty about the past and changing interpretations of ambiguous stimuli.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Jason Finley
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05

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