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Memory. 2011 May;19(4):346-59. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2011.569725.

The costs and benefits of testing text materials.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Tests have been shown to improve the later recall of tested information, a result known as the testing effect. Tests, however, can also impair the later recall of related information, an effect known as retrieval-induced forgetting. Although retrieval-induced forgetting has been demonstrated using a wide variety of materials, recent work suggests that learning information in the context of a coherent text passage may afford protection from retrieval-induced forgetting. In four experiments we explored the conditions under which retrieval-induced forgetting does and does not occur with such materials. We found that two factors-the coherence of the to-be-learned material and the competitiveness of retrieval practice-are important in determining whether retrieval-induced forgetting does or does not occur. Furthermore, even if retrieval-induced forgetting does occur, having the opportunity to restudy the forgotten information can prevent that forgetting from persisting. Taken together, these findings provide greater understanding of the costs and benefits of testing text materials, with possible implications for the optimisation of testing as a tool for learning in educational contexts.

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