Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

  • Sex differences in mental rotation tasks: Not just in the mental rotation process!
    The paper-and-pencil Mental Rotation Test (Vandenberg & Kuse, 1978) consistently produces large sex differences favoring men (Voyer, Voyer, & Bryden, 1995). In this task, participants select 2 of 4 answer choices that are rotations of a probe stimulus. Incorrect choices (i.e., foils) are either mirror reflections of the probe or structurally different. In contrast, in the mental rotation experimental task (Shepard & Metzler, 1971) participants judge whether 2 stimuli are the same but rotated or different by mirror reflection. The goal of the present research was to examine sources of sex differences in mental rotation, including the ability to capitalize on the availability of structure foils. In 2 experiments, both men and women had greater accuracy and faster reaction times (RTs) for structurally different compared with mirror foils in different versions of the Vandenberg and Kuse Mental Rotation Test (Experiment 1) and the Shepard and Metzler experimental task (Experiment 2). A significant male advantage in accuracy but not response time was found for both trial types. The male advantage was evident when all foils were structure foils so that mental rotation was not necessary (Experiment 3); however, when all foils were structure foils and participants were instructed to look for structure foils a significant sex difference was no longer evident (Experiment 4). Results suggest that the mental rotation process is not the only source of the sex difference in mental rotation tasks. Alternative strategy use is another source of sex differences in these tasks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Holistic processing of static and moving faces.
    Humans’ face ability develops and matures with extensive experience in perceiving, recognizing, and interacting with faces that move most of the time. However, how facial movements affect 1 core aspect of face ability—holistic face processing—remains unclear. Here we investigated the influence of rigid facial motion on holistic and part-based face processing by manipulating the presence of facial motion during study and at test in a composite face task. The results showed that rigidly moving faces were processed as holistically as static faces (Experiment 1). Holistic processing of moving faces persisted whether facial motion was presented during study, at test, or both (Experiment 2). Moreover, when faces were inverted to eliminate the contributions of both an upright face template and observers’ expertise with upright faces, rigid facial motion facilitated holistic face processing (Experiment 3). Thus, holistic processing represents a general principle of face perception that applies to both static and dynamic faces, rather than being limited to static faces. These results support an emerging view that both perceiver-based and face-based factors contribute to holistic face processing, and they offer new insights on what underlies holistic face processing, how information supporting holistic face processing interacts with each other, and why facial motion may affect face recognition and holistic face processing differently. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The role of episodic context in retrieval practice effects.
    The episodic context account of retrieval-based learning proposes that retrieval enhances subsequent retention because people must think back to and reinstate a prior learning context. Three experiments directly tested this central assumption of the context account. Subjects studied word lists and then either restudied the words under intentional learning conditions or made list discrimination judgments by indicating which list each word had occurred in originally. Subjects in both conditions experienced all items for the same amount of time, but subjects in the list discrimination condition were required to retrieve details about the original episodic context in which the words had occurred. Making initial list discrimination judgments consistently enhanced subsequent free recall relative to restudying the words. Analyses of recall organization and retrieval strategies on the final test showed that retrieval practice enhanced temporal organization during final recall. Semantic encoding tasks also enhanced retention relative to restudying but did so by promoting semantic organization and semantically based retrieval strategies during final recall. The results support the episodic context account of retrieval-based learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Dealing with prospective memory demands while performing an ongoing task: Shared processing, increased on-task focus, or both?
    Prospective memory (PM) is the cognitive ability to remember to fulfill intended action plans at the appropriate future moment. Current theories assume that PM fulfillment draws on attentional processes. Accordingly, pending PM intentions interfere with other ongoing tasks to the extent to which both tasks rely on the same processes. How do people manage the competition between PM and ongoing-task demands? Based on research relating mind wandering and attentional control (Kane & McVay, 2012), we argue that people may not only change the way they process ongoing-task stimuli when given a PM intention, but they may also engage in less off-task thinking than they otherwise would. That is, people focus more strongly on the tasks at hand and dedicate considerable conscious thought to the PM goal. We tested this hypothesis by asking subjects to periodically report on their thoughts during prototypical PM (and control) tasks. Task-unrelated thought rates dropped when participants performed an ongoing task while holding a PM intention versus performing the ongoing task alone (Experiment 1), even when PM demands were minimized (Experiment 2) and more so when PM execution was especially rewarded (Experiment 3). Our findings suggest that PM demands not only elicit a cost to ongoing-task processing, but they also induce a stronger on-task focus and promote conscious thoughts about the PM intention. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Reduced interference from memory testing: A postretrieval monitoring account.
    Initial learning can interfere with subsequent learning (proactive interference [PI]), but recent work indicates initial testing can reduce PI. Here, we tested 2 alternative hypotheses of this effect: Does testing reduce PI by constraining retrieval to the target list, or by facilitating a postretrieval monitoring process? Participants first studied 4 lists of unrelated words. The study-only group performed a distractor task following each list, whereas the tested group recalled each list. After these initial lists, both groups studied and were tested on a final list. Replicating prior work, the tested group recalled more of the final list items and had fewer prior-list intrusions than the study-only group (i.e., initial testing reduced subsequent PI). To test the 2-alternative hypotheses, Experiment 1 used a modified recall test for the final list, whereby participants were asked to recall the final list of words and also report any items from prior lists that inadvertently came to mind. Contrary to the constrained retrieval hypothesis, initial testing did not reduce the number of prior list items that came to mind, but consistent with the postretrieval monitoring hypothesis, testing increased the likelihood that the intrusions would be correctly attributed to prior lists. Experiments 2 and 3 further tested the postretrieval monitoring hypothesis by testing the final list twice. According to the hypothesis, testing all of the lists should render prior testing nondiagnostic of list membership, thereby impairing retrieval monitoring in the test group and minimizing its ability to reduce PI. This prediction was confirmed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Metacognitive unawareness of the errorful generation benefit and its effects on self-regulated learning.
    Generating errors followed by corrective feedback enhances retention more effectively than does reading—the benefit of errorful generation—but people tend to be unaware of this benefit. The current research explored this metacognitive unawareness, its effect on self-regulated learning, and how to alleviate or reverse it. People’s beliefs about the relative learning efficacy of generating errors followed by corrective feedback compared to reading, and the effects of generation fluency, are also explored. In Experiments 1 and 2, lower judgments of learning (JOLs) were consistently given to incorrectly generated word pairs than to studied (read) pairs and led participants to distribute more study resources to incorrectly generated pairs, even though superior recall of these pairs was exhibited in the final test. In Experiment 3, a survey revealed that people believe that generating errors followed by corrective feedback is inferior to reading. Experiment 4 was designed to alter participants’ metacognition by informing them of the errorful generation benefit prior to study. Although metacognitive misalignment was partly countered, participants still tended to be unaware of this benefit when making item-by-item JOLs. In Experiment 5, in a delayed JOL condition, higher JOLs were given to incorrectly generated pairs and read pairs were more likely to be selected for restudy. The current research reveals that people tend to underestimate the learning efficiency of generating errors followed by corrective feedback relative to reading when making immediate item-by-item JOLs. Informing people of the errorful generation benefit prior to study and asking them to make delayed JOLs are effective ways to alleviate this metacognitive miscalibration. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Investigating developmental trajectories of morphemes as reading units in German.
    The developmental trajectory of the use of morphemes is still unclear. We investigated the emergence of morphological effects on visual word recognition in German in a large sample across the complete course of reading acquisition in elementary school. To this end, we analyzed lexical decision data on a total of 1,152 words and pseudowords from a large cross-sectional sample of German children from the beginning of Grade 2 through 6, and a group of adults. We expand earlier evidence by (a) explicitly investigating processing differences between compounds, prefixes and suffixes, (b) taking into account vocabulary knowledge as an indicator for interindividual differences. Results imply that readers of German are sensitive to morphology in very early stages of reading acquisition with trajectories depending on morphological type and vocabulary knowledge. Facilitation from compound structure comes early in development, followed by facilitation from suffixes and prefixes later on in development. This indicates that stems and different types of affixes involve distinct processing mechanisms in beginning readers. Furthermore, children with higher vocabulary knowledge benefit earlier in development and to a greater extent from morphology. Our results specify the development and functional role of morphemes as reading units. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Our moral choices are foreign to us.
    Though moral intuitions and choices seem fundamental to our core being, there is surprising new evidence that people resolve moral dilemmas differently when they consider them in a foreign language (Cipolletti et al., 2016; Costa et al., 2014a; Geipel et al., 2015): People are more willing to sacrifice 1 person to save 5 when they use a foreign language compared with when they use their native tongue. Our findings show that the phenomenon is robust across various contexts and that multiple factors affect it, such as the severity of the negative consequences associated with saving the larger group. This has also allowed us to better describe the phenomenon and investigate potential explanations. Together, our results suggest that the foreign language effect is most likely attributable to an increase in psychological distance and a reduction in emotional response. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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