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Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 203–220 | Cite as

Environmental context-dependent memory: A review and meta-analysis

  • Steven M. SmithEmail author
  • Edward Vela
Article

Abstract

To address questions about human memory’s dependence on the coincidental environmental contexts in which events occur, we review studies of incidental environmental context-dependent memory in humans and report a meta-analysis. Our theoretical approach to the issue stems from Glenberg’s (1997) contention that introspective thought (e.g., remembering, conceptualizing) requires cognitive resources normally used to represent the immediate environment. We propose that if tasks encourage processing of noncontextual information (i.e., introspective thought) at input and/or at test, then both learning and memory will be less dependent on the ambient environmental contexts in which those activities occur. The meta-analysis showed that across all studies, environmental context effects were reliable, and furthermore, that the use of noncontextual cues during learning (overshadowing) and at test (outshining), as well as mental reinstatement of appropriate context cues at test, all reduce the effect of environmental manipulations. We conclude that environmental context-dependent memory effects are less likely to occur under conditions in which the immediate environment is likely to be suppressed.

Keywords

Retention Interval Context Effect Memory Trace Environmental Context Eyewitness Identification 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege Station
  2. 2.California State UniversityChico

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