Skip to main content

A comparison of two techniques for reducing context-dependent forgetting

Abstract

Recall is poorer when tested in a new environment than when tested in the original learning context. Two techniques for reducing this context-dependent forgetting were compared. One technique involved instructing subjects to recall their learning room(s), and the other attempted to establish multiple environmental retrieval cues by presenting lists in multiple rooms rather than all in the same room. Subjects were given three word lists to study in one or three rooms. All subjects were given a free-recall test in a new room, and half were asked to use remembered environmental context (EC) information to facilitate word memory. Multiple input contexts benefited only subjects who were uninstructed in the use of EC cues. Subjects given EC-recall instructions, however, recalled somewhat less in the three-room condition than in the one-room condition. The facilitative effects of the two techniques were not additive: EC-recall instructions benefited only one-room subjects. The results suggest that both EC-recall instructions and multiple learning contexts induce subjects to use contextual retrieval cues that are otherwise not spontaneously utilized, and that the greater the number of context cues stored in memory, the less accessible those cues become.

References

  • Bartlett, J. C., &Santrock, J. W. (1979). Affect-dependent episodic memory in young children.Child Development,5, 513–518.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dong, T., &Kintsch, W. (1968). Subjective retrieval cues in free recall.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior,7, 813–816.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eich, J. E. (1980). The cue-dependent nature of state-dependent retrieval.Memory & Cognition,8, 157–173.

    Google Scholar 

  • Glenberg, A. M. (1977). Influences of retrieval processes on the spacing effect in free recall.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory,3, 282–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kučera, H., &Francis, W. N. (1967).Computational analysis of present-day American English. Providence, RI: Brown University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mandler, G., &Pearlstone, Z. (1966). Free and constrained concept learning and subsequent recall.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior,5, 126–131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oltman, P. K., Raskin, E., &Witkin, H. A. (1971).Group embedded figures test. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, G., &Wapner, S. (1967). Postural status as a factor in memory.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior,6, 268–271.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, S. M. (1979). Remembering in and out of context.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory,5, 460–471.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, S. M. (1982). Enhancement of recall using multiple environmental contexts during learning.Memory & Cognition,10, 405–412.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, S. M., Glenberg, A. M., &Bjork, R. A. (1978). Environmental context and human memory.Memory & Cognition,6, 342–353.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, S. M., & Rothkopf, E. Z. (in press). Contextual enrichment and distribution of practice in the classroom.Cognition and Instruction.

  • Tulving, E., &Pearlstone, Z. (1966). Availability versus accessibility of information in memory for words.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior,5, 381–391.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, O. C., &Watkins, M. J. (1975). Buildup of proactive inhibition as a cue-overload effect.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory,104, 442–452.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

This research was funded by an expense grant from the Liberal Arts College at Texas A&M University.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Smith, S.M. A comparison of two techniques for reducing context-dependent forgetting. Memory & Cognition 12, 477–482 (1984). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03198309

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03198309

Keywords

  • Free Recall
  • Environmental Context
  • Multiple Learning
  • Recall Instruction
  • Recall List Word