Impaired memory for material related to a problem solved prior to encoding: suppression at learning or interference at recall?
Earlier research by the author revealed that material encoded incidentally in a speeded affective classification task and related to the demands of a divergent problem tends to be recalled worse in participants who solved the problem prior to encoding than in participants in the control, no-problem condition. The aim of the present experiment was to replicate this effect with a new, size-comparison orienting task, and to test for possible mechanisms of impaired recall. Participants either solved a problem before the orienting task or not, and classified each item in this task either once or three times. There was a reliable effect of impaired recall of problem-related items in the repetition condition, but not in the no-repetition condition. Solving the problem did not influence repetition priming for these items. These results support an account that attributes the impaired recall to inhibitory processes at learning and speak against a proactive interference explanation. However, they can be also accommodated by an account that refers to inefficient context cues and competitor interference at retrieval.
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