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Learning from failure: Errorful generation improves memory for items, not associations

Learning from failure: Errorful generation improves memory for items, not associations
Learning from failure: Errorful generation improves memory for items, not associations
Potts and Shanks (2014) recently reported that making mistakes improved the encoding of novel information compared with simply studying. This benefit of generating errors is counterintuitive, since it resulted in less study time and more opportunity for proactive interference. Five experiments examined the effect of generating errors versus studying on item recognition, cued recall, associative recognition, two-alternative forced choice and multiple-choice performance. Following Potts and Shanks (2014), participants first attempted to learn the English definitions of either very rare English words or Euskara nouns. During encoding, participants either guessed the definition (and almost always made an error) before the correct definition was revealed, or simply studied the words for an equivalent period. Experiments 1–4 used rare English words. In these experiments, generating errors led to better subsequent recognition of both the cues and targets compared with studying (Experiments 1 and 3). Tests of cued recall and associative recognition, by contrast, revealed no significant benefit of generating errors over studying (Experiments 1–3). Generating errors during encoding also improved performance on a two-alternative forced choice test when the correct target was presented with a novel foil, but not when the familiarity of the target and the foil was matched (Experiment 4). In Experiment 5, a different set of materials – Euskara nouns – and a different (intermixed) encoding procedure was adopted. Here, guessing improved target recognition (performance was improved on a multiple-choice test with unfamiliar foils), but impaired cued recall performance. These results suggest that, when learning word pairs that do not have a pre-existing semantic association, generating errors strengthens the cues and targets in isolation, but does not strengthen the cue-target associations.
Errors, Learning, Memory, Testing, Education
0749-596X
70-82
Seabrooke, Tina
bf0d9ea5-8cf7-494b-9707-891762fce6c3
Hollins, Timothy J.
6717fa83-d36f-4b16-b5f8-129478f6ac50
Kent, Christopher
7053ca49-d88a-4b63-a160-2d40020ec8f5
Wills, Andy J.
ac3dacc2-7918-47e9-9b4f-bbfde29a4ebf
Mitchell, Chris J.
348942ac-ea98-494d-ba4c-21e85273575a
Seabrooke, Tina
bf0d9ea5-8cf7-494b-9707-891762fce6c3
Hollins, Timothy J.
6717fa83-d36f-4b16-b5f8-129478f6ac50
Kent, Christopher
7053ca49-d88a-4b63-a160-2d40020ec8f5
Wills, Andy J.
ac3dacc2-7918-47e9-9b4f-bbfde29a4ebf
Mitchell, Chris J.
348942ac-ea98-494d-ba4c-21e85273575a

Seabrooke, Tina, Hollins, Timothy J., Kent, Christopher, Wills, Andy J. and Mitchell, Chris J. (2019) Learning from failure: Errorful generation improves memory for items, not associations. Journal of Memory and Language, 104, 70-82. (doi:10.1016/j.jml.2018.10.001).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Potts and Shanks (2014) recently reported that making mistakes improved the encoding of novel information compared with simply studying. This benefit of generating errors is counterintuitive, since it resulted in less study time and more opportunity for proactive interference. Five experiments examined the effect of generating errors versus studying on item recognition, cued recall, associative recognition, two-alternative forced choice and multiple-choice performance. Following Potts and Shanks (2014), participants first attempted to learn the English definitions of either very rare English words or Euskara nouns. During encoding, participants either guessed the definition (and almost always made an error) before the correct definition was revealed, or simply studied the words for an equivalent period. Experiments 1–4 used rare English words. In these experiments, generating errors led to better subsequent recognition of both the cues and targets compared with studying (Experiments 1 and 3). Tests of cued recall and associative recognition, by contrast, revealed no significant benefit of generating errors over studying (Experiments 1–3). Generating errors during encoding also improved performance on a two-alternative forced choice test when the correct target was presented with a novel foil, but not when the familiarity of the target and the foil was matched (Experiment 4). In Experiment 5, a different set of materials – Euskara nouns – and a different (intermixed) encoding procedure was adopted. Here, guessing improved target recognition (performance was improved on a multiple-choice test with unfamiliar foils), but impaired cued recall performance. These results suggest that, when learning word pairs that do not have a pre-existing semantic association, generating errors strengthens the cues and targets in isolation, but does not strengthen the cue-target associations.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 4 October 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 19 October 2018
Published date: February 2019
Keywords: Errors, Learning, Memory, Testing, Education

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 436343
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/436343
ISSN: 0749-596X
PURE UUID: 689ec88e-1729-4d10-ba72-5261101d5ec7
ORCID for Tina Seabrooke: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4119-8389

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 06 Dec 2019 17:30
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 03:20

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Contributors

Author: Tina Seabrooke ORCID iD
Author: Timothy J. Hollins
Author: Christopher Kent
Author: Andy J. Wills
Author: Chris J. Mitchell

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