The forward effect of testing: Behavioral evidence for the reset-of-encoding hypothesis using serial position analysis

Contributors:
  1. Miriam Engel
  2. Christian Frings

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Description: The forward effect of testing refers to the finding that retrieval practice of previously studied information increases retention of subsequently studied other information. It has recently been hypothesized that the forward effect (partly) reflects the result of a reset-of-encoding (ROE) process. The proposal is that encoding efficacy decreases with an increase in study material, but testing of previously studied information resets the encoding process and makes the encoding of the subsequently studied information as effective as the encoding of the previously studied information. The goal of the present study was to verify the ROE hypothesis on an item level basis. An experiment is reported that examined the effects of testing in comparison to restudy on items’ serial position curves. Participants studied three lists of items in each condition. In the testing condition, participants were tested immediately on non-target lists 1 and 2, whereas in the restudy condition, they restudied list 1 and 2. In both conditions, participants were tested immediately on target list 3. Influences of condition and items’ serial learning position on list 3 recall were analyzed. The results showed the forward effect of testing and furthermore that this effect varies with items’ serial list position. Early target list items at list primacy positions showed a larger enhancement effect than middle and late target list items at non-primacy positions. The results are consistent with the ROE hypothesis on an item level basis. The generalizability of the ROE hypothesis across different experimental tasks, like the list-method directed-forgetting task, is discussed.

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