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Psychon Bull Rev. 2012 Apr;19(2):251-7. doi: 10.3758/s13423-011-0196-4.

The effects of prior knowledge on the encoding of episodic contextual details.

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  • 1University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


A positive relationship between prior knowledge and item memory is a consistent finding in the literature. In the present study, we sought to determine whether this relationship extends to episodic details that are present at the time of encoding, namely source memory. Using a novel experimental design, we were able to show both between- and within-subjects effects of prior knowledge on source memory. Specifically, the results revealed that the degree of prior knowledge positively predicted memory for source specifying contextual details. In addition, by including two conditions in which attention was divided either at encoding or retrieval, we were able to show that prior knowledge influences memory by affecting encoding processes. Overall, the data suggest that a priori knowledge within a specific domain allows attentional resources to be allocated toward the encoding of contextual details.

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