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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01632

The Direct Testing Effect is Pervasive in Action Memory: Analyses of Recall Accuracy and Recall Speed

 Veit Kubik1, 2, 3*,  Fredrik Jönsson1, Monika Knopf4 and Wolfgang Mack5
  • 1Stockholm University, Sweden
  • 2Institut für Psychologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  • 3Berliner Schule für Geist und Gehirn, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  • 4Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 5Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany

Successful retrieval from memory is a desirably difficult learning event that reduces the recall decrement of studied materials over longer delays more than restudying does. The present study was the first to test this direct testing effect for performed and read action events (e.g., “light a candle”) in terms of both recall accuracy and recall speed. To this end, subjects initially encoded action phrases by either enacting them or reading them aloud (i.e., encoding type). After this initial study phase, they received two practice phases, in which the same number of action phrases were restudied or retrieval-practiced (Exp. 1 & 2), or not further processed (Exp. 3; i.e., practice type). This learning session was ensued by a final cued-recall test both after a short delay (2 minutes) and after a long delay (1 week: Exp. 1 & 2; 2 weeks: Exp. 3). To test the generality of the results, subjects retrieval-practiced with either noun-cued recall of verbs (Exp. 1 & 3) or verb-cued recall of nouns (Exp. 2) during the intermediate and final tests (i.e., test type). We demonstrated direct benefits of testing on both recall accuracy and recall speed. Repeated retrieval practice, relative to repeated restudy and study-only practice, reduced the recall decrement over the long delay, and enhanced phrases’ recall speed already after 2 minutes, and this independently of type of encoding and recall test. However, a benefit of testing on long-term retention only emerged (Exp. 3), when prolonging the recall delay from one to two weeks, and using different sets of phrases for the immediate and delayed final tests. Thus, the direct testing benefit appears to be highly generalizable even with more complex, action-oriented stimulus materials, and encoding manipulations. We discuss these results in terms of the distribution-based bifurcation model.

Keywords: direct testing effect, recall speed, enactment, action memory, distribution-based bifurcation model

Received: 31 Mar 2018; Accepted: 15 Aug 2018.

Edited by:

Tobias Richter, Universität Würzburg, Germany

Reviewed by:

Peter Verkoeijen, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Bernhard Pastötter, University of Trier, Germany
Isabel Lindner, University of Kassel, Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Kubik, Jönsson, Knopf and Mack. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Veit Kubik, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden,