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Affiliated institutions: Cornell University

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Description: Making judgments of learning (JOLs) can sometimes directly modify subsequent memory performance, which is referred to as JOL reactivity. The current study evaluated two major theoretical explanations for JOL reactivity and used the dual-retrieval model to pinpoint the retrieval processes that are modified by JOLs. Here, the changed-goal hypothesis assumes that JOLs highlight the difference in item difficulty and switch learners’ goals from mastering all items to focusing more on easier items at the expense of harder items, thus producing negative reactivity for the latter. The cue-strengthening hypothesis posits that making JOLs strengthens the cues that inform JOLs, thus producing positive reactivity when later memory tests are sensitive to the strengthened cues. In Experiment 1, we compared the reactivity of item-level JOLs between three types of word pairs that differ in learning difficulty: strongly related, weakly related, and identical pairs. In Experiment 2, we tested whether prestudy JOLs, which also reflected differences in item difficulty, produced similar reactivity as immediate JOLs. In Experiment 3, we investigated whether JOL reactivity was moderated by inter-item relation (target-target related or unrelated pairs), JOL type (item-level or list-level), and test format (associative or free recall). The three experiments offered converging support for the cue-strengthening hypothesis rather than for the changed-goal hypothesis. Moreover, the process-level mechanism of JOL reactivity varied with material type, JOL type, and test format. Although positive JOL reactivity was always accompanied by improvements in recollection for verbatim details, it was also sometimes supported by enhancements in non-recollective operations (reconstruction and familiarity).


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