Master of Science (MSc)
Faculty of Science
Dr. William E. Hockley
It is generally accepted that the environmental context present during memory encoding serves as an effective cue for recall if reinstated during retrieval. Participants who perform a free recall test in the same context as that during which they learned a set of words, often remember more words than participants who experience a context mismatch from encoding to retrieval. This is referred to as the context-dependent memory effect and forgetting due to a change in context is referred to as context-dependent forgetting. Recent evidence suggests that contexts need not always be physical but can be mentally generated or imagined and still serve to produce a context-dependent memory effect. That is, participants who recall information in a reinstated imagined context remember more words than those that do not reinstate the imagined context at recall, even when in a physically different context. Four experiments were conducted in an attempt to replicate context-dependent memory effects using imagined contexts and mental reinstatement. Participants learned a list of words in one physical context (room) followed by a free recall test in either the same or different room. Some participants were given instructions to imagine a context (one from a picture or a self-relevant context) during encoding and to later reinstate this imagined context at recall while in a physically different room. Results showed that not only was there no difference in number of words recalled among groups who imagined a context and those that did not, but that there was no effect of physical context as well. This set of studies demonstrates that context effects, whether physical or mentally generated, are not as robust as currently conceptualized.
Tozios, Caitlin J. I., "An Examination of Imagined Contexts: The Unreliability of Context-Dependent Memory Effects in Recall" (2017). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1954.