Craik and Tulving (1975) suggest that an “overloading of retrieval cues” explanation might serve as an alternative to their elaboration of coding theory of incidental learning data. Physical processing instructions require items to share the same encoding question, and thus can create more competition at recall than items of semantic instructions, which have unique questions. In an incidental learning task, 100 subjects named the colors in which words were printed. Recall of congruent words, for example, “money” printed in green, was superior to recall of incongruent words, for example, “money” printed in yellow, which in turn was superior to that of color-neutral control words. Since the items differed qualitatively in richness of information, and not in number of retrieval cues, it was concluded that the “overloading of retrieval cues” explanation cannot serve as a complete account of incidental learning phenomena.
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