Memory for words related to demands of a problem solved prior to encoding: An Investigation into inhibitory mechanisms of defence against distraction
Participants solved a simple divergent problem, then performed an ostensibly unrelated speeded classification task concerning each of a series of nouns, and then free recalled the nouns. Some of the nouns in the classification task corresponded to certain demands of the problem. Recall of these nouns was analysed as a function of response-to-stimulus interval (RSI) in the classification task. Earlier studies by the author indicated that memory for such words tends to be impaired. This has been attributed to inhibitory defence against current-goal-irrelevant processing they cause in the classification task. On the assumption that the processing and the inhibitory counteraction needs time to develop between the consecutive words, impaired recall was expected at some longer and not at some shorter RSIs. Indeed, recall of problem-related words was worse in the 1550-ms RSI condition than in the 1150-ms RSI condition. Unexpectedly, however, in the 350- and 750-ms RSI conditions recall was also impaired relative to the 1150-ms RSI condition. The latter did not differ from the 1150-ms RSI control condition, in which the problem was not solved. A revised model is proposed to account for the data, which assumes that strategically controlled inhibition may block task-irrelevant processing at an earlier or at a later phase, decreasing the accessibility of the memory contents involved.
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