The Testing Effect Under Divided Attention: Educational Application Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Buchin, Zachary
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • In educational settings, tests are typically used to assess learning. However, a great deal of research has also shown that tests enhance retention, often to a greater degree than does restudying the same material (i.e. the testing effect). Understanding how these encoding effects of retrieval differ from other forms of encoding is important when convincing educators and students of the power of repeated testing. One potential difference relates to attention: Divided attention (DA) is well known to disrupt memory encoding but typically has much less impact on memory retrieval. Less is known about the relative attentional demands of the encoding effects of retrieval. Because students are often challenged by distractions while learning, it is important to examine the testing effect, and its relation to attention, with materials and methods more typical of educational settings. In three experiments, participants studied educationally relevant materials (phase 1), restudied or retrieved those materials (phase 2), and then took a final cued-recall test (phase 3). Phase 2 occurred under full attention (FA) or DA. In all three experiments, a testing effect was found under both FA and DA and the level of disruption from DA was similar for both phase 2 learning conditions. This pattern emerged with foreign language word pairs (Experiments 1 and 2) and with educational texts (Experiment 3). Consequently, the encoding effects of retrieval and restudy appear to be similarly susceptible to distraction when learning complex educational information.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Cohen, Jessica
  • Hopfinger, Joseph
  • Mulligan, Neil
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2018

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