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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2010 May;36(3):671-85. doi: 10.1037/a0018785.

The production effect: delineation of a phenomenon.

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Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


In 8 recognition experiments, we investigated the production effect-the fact that producing a word aloud during study, relative to simply reading a word silently, improves explicit memory. Experiments 1, 2, and 3 showed the effect to be restricted to within-subject, mixed-list designs in which some individual words are spoken aloud at study. Because the effect was not evident when the same repeated manual or vocal overt response was made to some words (Experiment 4), producing a subset of studied words appears to provide additional unique and discriminative information for those words-they become distinctive. This interpretation is supported by observing a production effect in Experiment 5, in which some words were mouthed (i.e., articulated without speaking); in Experiment 6, in which the materials were pronounceable nonwords; and even in Experiment 7, in which the already robust generation effect was incremented by production. Experiment 8 incorporated a semantic judgment and showed that the production effect was not due to "lazy reading" of the words studied silently. The distinctiveness that accrues to the records of produced items at the time of study is useful at the time of test for discriminating these produced items from other items. The production effect represents a simple but quite powerful mechanism for improving memory for selected information.

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