, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 487-497

Generating makes words memorable, but so does effective reading


In many experiments, memorial benefits have been found when subjects generate items from fragments rather than read items in their complete forms. Does generation cause-this-difference, or are subjects disposed to adopt different strategies when generating as opposed to reading? If generating causes the difference, items processed in the same way apart from a generative stage should therefore benefit from that generative stage. Our experiments did result in benefits for generating as opposed to reading, but only when the readers processed the words poorly—by pronouncing them. When the readers processed the items well, by imagining them, generating was no better than reading. A new generation effect was found in meta memory. Subjects thought they would remember more generated items than read items; however, the act of making the prediction entailed meaningful processing, and the generated items were not actually remembered better than the read ones.

This research was supported by Operating Grant OGP0008 122 to Ian Begg, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Experiment 1 was part of an honors thesis by Ede Vinski, Experiments 2 and 4 were part of an honors thesis by Linda Frankovich, and Experiment 3 was part of an honors thesis by Brian Holgate, all supervised by Ian Begg.