Memory & Cognition

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 342–353 | Cite as

Environmental context and human memory

  • Steven M. Smith
  • Arthur Glenberg
  • Robert A. Bjork


Five experiments examined the effects of environmental context on recall and recognition. In Experiment 1, variability of input environments produced higher free recall performance than unchanged input environments. Experiment 2 showed improvements in cued recall when storage and test contexts matched, using a paradigm that unconfounded the variables of context mismatching and context change. In Experiment 3, recall of categories and recall of words within a category were better for same-context than different-context recall. In Experiment 4, subjects given identical input conditions showed strong effects of environmental context when given a free recall test, yet showed no main effects of context on a recognition test. The absence of an environmental context effect on recognition was replicated in Experiment 5, using a cued recognition task to control the semantic encodings of test words. In the discussion of these experiments, environmental context is compared with other types of context, and an attempt is made to identify the memory processes influenced by environmental context.


Recognition Memory Free Recall False Alarm Rate Recognition Test Environmental Context 
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. 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven M. Smith
    • 1
  • Arthur Glenberg
    • 1
  • Robert A. Bjork
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WisconsinMadison
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLos Angeles

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