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Poster E42

Associative memory formation but not consolidation is affected by distracting information during repeated study

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Evan Grandoit1 (, Janvi Subramanyan2, Paul Reber3; 1Northwestern University, 2University of California, Los Angeles

A common technique used to intentionally create strong associative memory representations is to repeatedly study with self-testing to practice retrieval of the associated items. This kind of learning is essentially a trial-and-error (T&E) strategy that likely benefits from accelerated consolidation through repeated memory re-activation and retrieval. However, there is also a risk that erroneous practice responses create interfering distracting memories. Here, we compared T&E learning of novel country-name/flag pairs over multiple repetitions where each trial required selecting the correct answer from among two or six alternatives. The additional T&E foils might slow learning or could possibly enhance learning by requiring greater effort. In Experiment 1, participants (n=48) attempted to learn 60 flags across five T&E study repetitions with either two or six alternatives. Participants improved flag memory reliably but T&E with six alternatives learned less well (31.7% versus 44.6% post-test) indicating that more distracting foils produced less effective learning. In Experiment 2 (n=50), we tested whether more foils might interfere specifically with the initial creation of flag-name associations. Before T&E training, participants saw the correct name for each of the 60 flags twice followed by fourteen study trials across two days. Participants improved reliably and similarly with fewer and more foils during training (71.9% and 67.9% post-test). We conclude that more foils during study interferes with memory formation but once created, additional memory strengthening occurs regardless of the number of foils. Establishing a new memory trace appears to be sensitive to distracting information, but subsequent consolidation through re-activation is not.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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