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Memory as discrimination: a challenge to the encoding-retrieval match principle

Poirier, M., Nairne, J. S., Morin, C. , Zimmermann, F. G., Koutmeridou, K. & Fowler, J. (2012). Memory as discrimination: a challenge to the encoding-retrieval match principle. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 38(1), pp. 16-29. doi: 10.1037/a0024956


Four experiments contrasted the predictions of a general encoding-retrieval match hypothesis with those of a view claiming that the distinctiveness of the cue-target relationship is the causal factor in retrieval. In Experiments 1, 2, and 4 participants learned the relationships between 4 targets and trios of cues; in Experiment 3 there were 3 targets, each associated with a pair of cues. A learning phase was followed by a cued-recognition task where the correct target had to be identified based on 1 or more of the cues. The main performance measurement was response time. Learning was designed to lead to high accuracy so effects could be attributed to retrieval efficiency rather than to variations in encoding. The nature of the cues and targets was varied across experiments. The critical factor was whether each cue was uniquely associated with the to-be-recalled target. All experiments orthogonally manipulated (a) how discriminative-or uniquely associated with a target-each cue was and (b) the degree of overlap between the cues present during learning and those present at retrieval. The novel finding reported here is that increasing the encoding-retrieval match can hinder performance if the increase simultaneously reduces how well cues predict a target-that is, a cue's diagnostic value. Encoding-retrieval match was not the factor that determined the effectiveness of retrieval. Our findings suggest that increasing the encoding-retrieval match can lead to no change, an increase, or a decrease in retrieval performance.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Adult, Analysis of Variance, Association Learning, Cues, Discrimination (Psychology), Humans, Mental Recall, Reaction Time, Recognition (Psychology), Young Adult
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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