The Mnemonic Effect of Choice

Michelle E Coverdale, Purdue University


Making choices during encoding leads to better memory than having the same choices made for you. Beyond a mnemonic benefit for choosing, our laboratory has shown a benefit for items that have been chosen over those that are not chosen. Though many experiments in the fields of memory and education involve a choice component, little consideration has been paid to how an item’s status as chosen or unchosen affects memory. Prior research comparing memory for chosen and unchosen items has confounded choice and congruity, making the source of the recall benefit unclear. We conducted three experiments to dissociate choice and congruity effects. The first two experiments manipulated both choice and congruity and showed mnemonic benefits for chosen words over unchosen words and for congruent words over incongruent words, but these effects did not interact. In the third experiment, in which participants did not overtly interact with the word that they were selecting, we replicated the choice and congruity effects found in the first two experiments. We also compared recall for word-pairs that were given a “yes” response to those given a “no” response and found both a benefit for congruent words as well as for word-pairs that were given a “yes” response.




Nairne, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Experimental psychology|Cognitive psychology

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