Learning Through Clamor: The Allocation and Perception of Study Time in Noise

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Memory tasks involve a degree of judgment and strategic decision-making, based upon the perceived benefits of particular learning, maintenance and recall strategies. The consequences of these metacognitive judgments for memory have been amply documented under experimental conditions that require participants to focus upon a task in the absence of distractors. Eight experiments consider the impact of less benign environmental conditions—specifically, the presence of distracting speech—upon the metacognitive aspects of memory. Distraction reliably disrupted free recall and, as indicated by judgments of learning, participants were aware of this effect. However, because participants did not adjust study time in compensation, the distraction effect was exaggerated relative to experimenter-imposed presentation rates. This finding appears to be the consequence of distraction-induced disruption of time perception at encoding, rather than any deliberate strategy. The results highlight the need to consider the impact of more challenging environments on metacognition generally.

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