Sources of Interference in Recognition Testing

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Recognition memory accuracy is harmed by prior testing (a.k.a., output interference [OI]; Tulving & Arbuckle, 1966). In several experiments, we interpolated various tasks between recognition test trials. The stimuli and the tasks were more similar (lexical decision [LD] of words and nonwords) or less similar (gender identification of male and female faces) to the stimuli and task used in recognition testing. Not only did the similarity between the interpolated and recognition tasks not affect recognition accuracy but performance of the interpolated task caused no interference in subsequent recognition testing. Only the addition of recognition trials caused OI. When we presented a block of LD trials or gender identification trials before the recognition test, a decrease in accuracy was observed in the subsequent recognition tests. These results suggest a distinction between temporal context and task context, such that recognition memory performance is determined by the salience of the context cues, and the use of temporal context cues is associated with OI.

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