Skip to content

Learning from failure: Errorful generation improves memory for items, not associations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Tina Seabrooke
  • Timothy Hollins
  • Chris Kent
  • Andy Wills
  • Chris Mitchell
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-82
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume104
Early online date19 Oct 2018
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 4 Oct 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Feb 2019

Abstract

Potts and Shanks (2014) recently reported that making mistakes improved the encoding of novel information compared with simply studying. This benefit of generating errors is counterintuitive, since it resulted in less study time and more opportunity for proactive interference. Five experiments examined the effect of generating errors versus studying on item recognition, cued recall, associative recognition, two-alternative forced choice and multiple-choice performance. Following Potts and Shanks (2014), participants first attempted to learn the English definitions of either very rare English words or Euskara nouns. During encoding, participants either guessed the definition (and almost always made an error) before the correct definition was revealed, or simply studied the words for an equivalent period. Experiments 1–4 used rare English words. In these experiments, generating errors led to better subsequent recognition of both the cues and targets compared with studying (Experiments 1 and 3). Tests of cued recall and associative recognition, by contrast, revealed no significant benefit of generating errors over studying (Experiments 1–3). Generating errors during encoding also improved performance on a two-alternative forced choice test when the correct target was presented with a novel foil, but not when the familiarity of the target and the foil was matched (Experiment 4). In Experiment 5, a different set of materials – Euskara nouns – and a different (intermixed) encoding procedure was adopted. Here, guessing improved target recognition (performance was improved on a multiple-choice test with unfamiliar foils), but impaired cued recall performance. These results suggest that, when learning word pairs that do not have a pre-existing semantic association, generating errors strengthens the cues and targets in isolation, but does not strengthen the cue-target associations.

    Structured keywords

  • Memory

    Research areas

  • Education, Errors, Learning, Memory, Testing

Download statistics

No data available

Documents

Documents

  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Elsevier at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749596X18300858?via%3Dihub. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 985 KB, PDF document

DOI

View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups