This article applies to:
Experiment Author: Adapted from STEP and used with the permission of Brian MacWhinney
Participants were given words and questions about them. The questions involved "shallow" features, like font, "intermediate" features, like rhyming, and "deep" features involving meaning. They were then given an unexpected recall or recognition task. It was found that deeply encoded words were, in fact, remembered better than shallowly encoded ones.
The experiment has two parts. In the first part, participants are shown a question for three seconds or until they hit the spacebar to continue. Then a word is shown and participants must answer 'yes' or 'no' by pressing 1 or 2 on a keyboard. There are 60 trials in this portion of the experiment.
In the next part, 180 words are shown. For each word, participants recall if the word was presented in the first part of the experiment, pressing '1' for yes and '2' for no. There is no time limit for responding, the next word is presented only after a participant responds.
Craik, F.I.M., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104, 268-294.
Cited Experiment Abstract
Ten experiments were designed to explore the levels of processing framework for human memory research proposed by Craik and Lockhart (1972). The basic notions are that the episodic memory trace may be thought of as a rather automatic by-product of operations carried out by the cognitive system and that the durability of the trace is a positive function of “depth” of processing, where depth refers to greater degrees of semantic involvement. Subjects were induced to process words to different depths by answering various questions about typescript; intermediate levels of encoding were accomplished by asking questions about rhymes; deep levels were induced by asking whether the word would fit into a given category or sentence frame. After the encoding phase was completed, subjects were unexpectedly given a recall or recognition test for the words. In general, deeper encodings took longer to accomplish and were associated with higher levels of performance on the subsequent memory test. Also, questions leading to positive responses were associated with higher retention levels than questions leading to negative responses, at least at deeper levels of encoding.
Further experiments examined this pattern of effects in greater analytic detail. It was established that the original results did not simply reflect differential encoding times; an experiment was designed in which a complex but shallow task took longer to carry out but yielded lower levels of recognition than an easy, deeper task. Other studies explored reasons for the superior retention of words associated with positive responses on the initial task. Negative responses were remembered as well as positive responses when the questions led to an equally elaborate encoding in the two cases. The idea that elaboration or “spread” of encoding provides a better description of the results was given a further boost by the finding of the typical pattern of results under intentional learning conditions, and where each word was exposed for 6 sec in the initial phase. While spread and elaboration may indeed by better descriptive terms for the present findings, retention depends critically on the qualitative nature of the encoding operations performed; a minimal semantic analysis is more beneficial than an extensive structural analysis.
Finally, Schulman’s (1974) principle of congruity appears necessary for a complete description of the effects obtained. Memory performance is enhanced to the extent that the context, or encoding question, forms an integrated unit with the word presented. A congruous encoding yields superior memory performance because a more elaborate trace is laid down and because in such cases the structure of semantic memory can be utilized more effectively to facilitate retrieval. The article concludes with a discussion of the broader implications of these data and ideas for the study of human learning and memory.
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