, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 965-976

Asymmetry between encoding and retrieval processes: Evidence from divided attention and a calibration analysis


Two experiments provide further information on the effects of divided attention (DA) on encoding and retrieval processes. The first experiment examined the effects of decision and motor difficulty of a concurrent reaction time task. A calibration analysis was used in the second experiment to test the hypothesis that shifting attentional emphasis away from encoding to the secondary task reduces the level of processing the to-be-remembered items receive. Overall, the results confirm and extend the conclusions of Craik, Govoni, Naveh-Benjamin, and Anderson (1996) and Naveh-Benjamin, Craik, Guez, and Dori (1998), by pointing to clear differences between encoding and retrieval processes: Encoding is affected by simultaneous task demands, especially those associated with “central” resources involved in conscious decision making, whereas retrieval is obligatory in that it is largely immune to the effects of simultaneous demands. The results of the calibration analysis suggest that one reason for the poorer memory performance as a result of DA at encoding is a qualitative shift to less deep, elaborative strategies.

This research was supported in part by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Extended Grant to the first author and in part by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to the second author.