Send to

Choose Destination
Mem Cognit. 2012 May;40(4):505-13. doi: 10.3758/s13421-011-0174-0.

When and why do retrieval attempts enhance subsequent encoding?

Author information

Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2081, USA.


Unsuccessful retrieval attempts can enhance subsequent encoding and learning. In three experiments, subjects either attempted to retrieve word pairs prior to studying them (e.g., attempting to recall tide-? before studying tide-beach) or did not attempt retrieval and retention of the studied targets was assessed on a subsequent cued recall test. Experiment 1 showed that attempting retrieval enhanced subsequent encoding and recall relative to not attempting retrieval when the word pairs were semantically related, but not when the pairs were unrelated. In Experiment 2, studying a different word pair prior to the correct pair (e.g., studying tide-wave prior to tide-beach) did not produce the same effect as attempting retrieval prior to studying. Constraining retrieval to a particular candidate word prior to study (e.g., recalling tide-wa__ before studying tide-beach) produced a negative effect on subsequent recall. Experiment 3 showed that attempting retrieval did not enhance encoding when a brief delay occurred between the retrieval attempt and the subsequent study trial. The results support the idea that a search set of candidates related to the retrieval cue is activated during retrieval and that this retrieval-specific activation can enhance subsequent encoding of those candidates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center