Optimizing the Correction of Memory Errors
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People are always at risk of making errors when they attempt to retrieve information from memory. An important question is how to create the optimal learning conditions so that, over time, the correct information is learned and the number of mistakes declines. Feedback is a powerful tool, both for reinforcing new learning and correcting memory errors. In 5 experiments, I sought to understand the best procedures for administering feedback during learning. First, I evaluated the popular recommendation that feedback is most effective when given immediately, and I showed that this recommendation does not always hold when correcting errors made with educational materials in the classroom. Second, I asked whether immediate feedback is more effective in a particular case—when correcting false memories, or strongly-held errors that may be difficult to notice even when the learner is confronted with the feedback message. Third, I examined whether varying levels of learner motivation might help to explain cross-experimental variability in feedback timing effects: Are unmotivated learners less likely to benefit from corrective feedback, especially when it is administered at a delay? Overall, the results revealed that there is no best “one-size-fits-all” recommendation for administering feedback; the optimal procedure depends on various characteristics of learners and their errors. As a package, the data are consistent with the spacing hypothesis of feedback timing, although this theoretical account does not successfully explain all of the data in the larger literature.
DepartmentPsychology and Neuroscience
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