Judgments of Learning in Context: Backgrounds Can Both Reduce and Produce Metamemory Illusions

  • Joshua R. TatzEmail author
  • Zehra F. Peynircioğlu


Varying item-specific features such as size (Rhodes & Castel, 2008) or blur (Yue, Castel, & Bjork, 2013) often produces metamemory illusions in which one type of item receives higher judgments of learning (JOLs) without being recalled better. In this study, we explored how similar manipulations to context would influence JOLs. When to-be-recalled words varying in size (or blur) were accompanied by backgrounds also varying in size (or blur), the traditional JOL illusions were reduced (Experiments 1, 2, 4, and 5) compared to when there were no backgrounds (Experiments 3a, 3b, and 4). Thus, the item-specific and contextual cues were used interactively. Further, the background manipulations also sometimes themselves led to metamemory illusions regarding JOLs for the to-be-remembered items. In general, there were robust individual differences in how participants used the cues, including how they incorporated the contextual cues into their JOL decisions. In part, this may explain why interactive cue utilization did not always emerge at the group level. In sum, we showed that context may affect JOLs both directly and indirectly by influencing participants’ use of item-specific cues. These findings broaden our understanding of how cues may be utilized (e.g., Koriat, 1997) and integrated (e.g., Undorf, Söllner, and Bröder, 2018) in JOLs.


JOL Cue utilization Cue integration Font size Individual differences 



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© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA

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