People use the memory for past-test heuristic as an explicit cue for judgments of learning

Michael J. Serra, Robert Ariel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

When people estimate their memory for to-be-learned material over multiple study–test trials, they tend to base their judgments of learning (JOLs) on their test performance for those materials on the previous trial. Their use of this information—known as the memory for past-test (MPT) heuristic—is believed to be responsible for improvements in the relative accuracy (resolution) of people’s JOLs across learning trials. Although participants seem to use past-test information as a major basis for their JOLs, little is known about how learners translate this information into a judgment of learning. Toward this end, in two experiments, we examined whether participants factored past-test performance into their JOLs in either an explicit, theory-based way or an implicit way. To do so, we had one group of participants (learners) study paired associates, make JOLs, and take a test on two study–test trials. Other participants (observers) viewed learners’ protocols and made JOLs for the learners. Presumably, observers could only use theory-based information to make JOLs for the learners, which allowed us to estimate the contribution of explicit and implicit information to learners’ JOLs. Our analyses suggest that all participants factored simple past-test performance into their JOLs in an explicit, theory-based way but that this information made limited contributions to improvements in relative accuracy across trials. In contrast, learners also used other privileged, implicit information about their learning to inform their judgments (that observers had no access to) that allowed them to achieve further improvements in relative accuracy across trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1260-1272
Number of pages13
JournalMemory and Cognition
Volume42
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Explicit cue use
  • Implicit cue use
  • Judgments of learning
  • Memory for past test
  • Metacognition
  • Relative accuracy

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