Collaborative memory and part-set cuing impairments: The role of executive control

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Barber, Sarah Jane
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Providing memory cues can sometimes hurt memory performance rather than enhance it. More specifically, when people are exposed to a subset of previously studied list items they will recall fewer of the remaining items compared to a condition where none of the studied items are provided during recall. This occurs both when the subset of list items is provided by the experimenter (as in the part-set cuing deficit) and when the subset of list items is provided during the course of a collaborative discussion by other individuals (as in the collaborative inhibition effect). Previous research has identified retrieval disruption as the mechanism underlying both the part-set cuing deficit and the collaborative inhibition effect. However, little is known about the factors that may make individuals particularly susceptible to retrieval disruption. This dissertation tested one such candidate factor, namely, executive control. Two competing hypotheses about the relationship between executive control and retrieval disruption were tested. Some previous research suggests that executive control plays only an indirect role in modulating retrieval disruption through its role at encoding and should therefore exert little effect when it is varied at only the retrieval stage. In contrast, other research suggests that increases in executive control at the retrieval stage should be associated with decreases in retrieval disruption. These hypotheses were tested in both a part-set cuing paradigm (Experiment 1) and in a collaborative memory paradigm (Experiment 2) using the novel approach of directly manipulating an individual's level of executive control during retrieval with an executive depletion manipulation. Across experiments, results indicated that executive depletion played no direct role in modulating retrieval disruption. That is, neither the part-set cuing deficit (Experiment 1) nor the collaborative inhibition effect (Experiment 2) was increased by the executive depletion manipulation. In contrast, executive control abilities were indirectly related to retrieval disruption through their role at encoding (Experiment 1). Together, these results suggest that executive control does not directly affect retrieval disruption at the retrieval stage, and that the role of this putative mechanism may be limited to the encoding stage.
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
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