Effects of similarity on environmental context cueing
Three experiments examined the prediction that context cues which are similar to study contexts can facilitate episodic recall, even if those cues are never seen before the recall test. Environmental context cueing effects have typically produced such small effect sizes that influences of moderating factors, such as the similarity between encoding and retrieval contexts, would be difficult to observe experimentally. Videos of environmental contexts, however, can be used to produce powerful context-dependent memory effects, particularly when only one memory target is associated with each video context, intentional item-context encoding is encouraged, and free recall tests are used. Experiment 1 showed that a not previously viewed video of the study context provided an effective recall cue, although it was not as effective as the originally viewed video context. Experiments 2 and 3 showed that videos of environments that were conceptually similar to encoding contexts (e.g., both were videos of ball field games) also cued recall, but not as well if the encoding contexts were given specific labels (e.g., “home run”) incompatible with test contexts (e.g., a soccer scene). A fourth experiment that used incidental item-context encoding showed that video context reinstatement has a robust effect on paired associate memory, indicating that the video context reinstatement effect does not depend on interactive item-context encoding or free recall testing.
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