The Effect of Varying Degrees of Difficulty of Retrieval Practice on Long Term Memory Retention
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Desirable difficulties during the learning process have been shown to enhance learning. In this study we examined how increasing contextual variation boosts memory. Specifically, we investigated how gradually making retrieval practice more difficult by making the background contexts more dissimilar affects overall memory. This will help gauge the effect of context on learning, in order to develop methods to make teaching and studying more effective. Participants viewed face-name pairs, each superimposed on some non-related background image. On retrieval practice (RP) 1, participants were asked to recall each name when the face was again superimposed on the original background scene. Feedback was given afterward. On each subsequent retrieval practice, up to RP5, the background scenes became more unlike the original. The participants were later tested for their overall memory of the names, and their results were compared to two control groups; one group viewed the face-name pairs over the same background for each RP and one group viewed the pairs over completely different backgrounds for each RP. No significant differences were observed between any of the groups in long term memory retention. However, a trend suggests that with more participants a difference will emerge showing that the control group that viewed the same backgrounds each time experienced greater drops in long-term retention than the other two groups.
Crommett, Alexandra (2013). The Effect of Varying Degrees of Difficulty of Retrieval Practice on Long Term Memory Retention. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from