Effects of the organization of text on memory: Texts of two implications of a selective attention hypothesis

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In an experiment with 56 undergraduates, the same target paragraph was embedded in 2 different passages. In one passage, the information in the target paragraph was of major importance, and in the other passage, it was of minor importance. The following measures were taken of this target paragraph: free recall of its information, reading time, and usage of cognitive capacity as measured by the secondary-task technique. Results show that there was almost twice as much free recall for the information in the target paragraph when it was important as when it was unimportant. The selective-attention hypothesis states that the increased recall of the important information was caused by its selection for extra processing. Using reasonable assumptions, the selective-attention hypothesis implies that the extra processing should be accompanied by increased reading time and increased usage of cognitive capacity. But the results show that although reading time and usage of cognitive capacity were reliably affected by certain conditions of the experiment, they were not affected by the importance of the target paragraph. Thus, the selective-attention hypothesis was not supported. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that the increase in recall was caused by processes occurring at retrieval. (26 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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