The effects of divided attention on encoding and retrieval processes: The resiliency of retrieval processes

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We have recently cast doubt (Craik, Govoni, Naveh-Benjamin, & Anderson, 1996; Naveh-Benjamin, Craik, Guez, & Dori, 1998) on the view that encoding and retrieval processes in human memory are similar. Divided attention at encoding was shown to reduce memory performance significantly, whereas divided attention at retrieval affected memory performance only minimally. In this article we examined this asymmetry further by using more difficult retrieval tasks, which require substantial effort. In one experiment, subjects had to encode and retrieve lists of unfamiliar name-nouns combinations attached to people's photographs, and in the other, subjects had to encode words that were either strong or weak associates of the cues presented with them and then to retrieve those words with either intra- or extra-list cues. The results of both experiments showed that unlike division of attention at encoding, which reduces memory performance markedly, division of attention at retrieval has almost no effect on memory performance, but was accompanied by an increase in secondary-task cost. Such findings again illustrated the resiliency of retrieval processes to manipulations involving the withdrawal of attention. We contend that retrieval processes are obligatory or protected, but that they require attentional resources for their execution.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel 2: University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: August 1, 2000

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