The Role of Interest in Memory for Trivia Questions: An Investigation With a Large-Scale Database

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Abstract

The importance of interest for memory performance has been established in previous studies. One way to induce interest in experiments is to use trivia questions. However, previous studies have used only a limited number of trivia questions and these questions differ substantially across studies, making it difficult to ensure the comparability and generalizability of the findings. Most of these studies also have not differentiated between interest in the trivia question itself and interest in the corresponding answer. To address these issues, the current study established a normative database for 244 trivia questions with a large sample (N = 1,498) and examined how pre-answer interest (i.e., interest in the question) and post-answer interest (i.e., interest in the answer) relate to learning performance. Participants were presented with trivia questions, asked to provide their best guess for the answer, rated their confidence in the guess, and indicated their interest in learning the true answer. Following the presentation of the answer, participants indicated their post-answer interest. One week later, participants were given a memory test on the questions. A multilevel structural equation model revealed that the positive relationship between pre-answer interest and memory was mostly mediated by post-answer interest (i.e., interest in the questions’ answer). Confidence had both a direct and a mediated effect (over interest) on memory. These results provide a more fine-grained analysis of how interest can fuel learning.

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