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How do students improve their value-based learning with task experience?

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When learning items that vary in reward, students improve their scores (i.e., earned reward) with task experience. In four experiments, we examined whether such improvements arise from better selective encoding of items that would earn more (vs. less) reward. Participants studied and recalled words across multiple study-test trials. On each trial, 12 words were slated with different values (typically from 1 to 12), and participants earned the point value assigned to a given word if it was correctly recalled. In all experiments, participants earned more points across the first two trials. In Experiment 1, participants either self-paced their study or had experimenter-paced study and in Experiment 2, some participants were penalised for each second spent during study. Improvements in points earned were related to increases in overall recall but not to selective encoding. In Experiment 3, some participants were given value-emphasised instructions, yet they did not demonstrate selective encoding. In Experiment 4, we used a larger range of point values, but selective encoding still did not account for the improvement in point scores across lists. These results suggest that metacognitively-driven selective encoding is not necessary to observe improvements in value-based learning.
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Keywords: Learning how to learn; Metamemory; Selective encoding; Value-based learning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA 2: Department of Psychology, Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA

Publication date: August 18, 2015

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