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A comparison of two techniques for reducing context-dependent forgetting


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.


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

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Smith, S.M. A comparison of two techniques for reducing context-dependent forgetting. Memory & Cognition 12, 477–482 (1984).

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