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Poster D51 - Graduate Student Award Winner

How Does Context Variability Interact with Encoding-Retrieval Match?

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Erica Shafer1 (, Jefferson Salan, Rachel Diana; 1Virginia Tech

Two experiments investigate how context variability during encoding, in an episodic long-term memory task, interacts with the match between the encoding and retrieval contexts. Overall, item recognition improved when an item was studied under variable cognitive processing as compared to consistent cognitive processing and encoding-retrieval context match benefitted memory. In terms of the interaction between the factors, we hypothesized that transfer appropriate processing/encoding specificity would be a more important factor in determining memory performance than context variability. If so, matching the context of repeated encoding exposures as closely as possible to the upcoming retrieval context (and therefore reducing variability) should produce the best memory performance. If not, and if variability has benefits beyond transfer appropriate processing, then at least one exposure to the test context (achieving encoding-retrieval match) intermixed with additional variability in context should be more beneficial than repeated practice of the retrieval context. We found the latter pattern. There was no benefit of repeated matching retrieval cues (as long as the encoding cues included at least one instance of a match to the retrieval cues) when compared to a mix of variability and encoding-retrieval match. Additional repetitions with varying contexts produced significantly better performance than did the repetition of the matching context. This refutes a potential strict interpretation of transfer appropriate processing/encoding specificity. We argue that the current study and other recent findings indicate that encoding variability is a beneficial strategy for recognition memory.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024