Why Testing Improves Memory: Mediator Effectiveness Hypothesis

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Science  15 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6002, pp. 335
DOI: 10.1126/science.1191465

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A wealth of research has established that practice tests improve memory for the tested material. Although the benefits of practice tests are well documented, the mechanisms underlying testing effects are not well understood. We propose the mediator effectiveness hypothesis, which states that more-effective mediators (that is, information linking cues to targets) are generated during practice involving tests with restudy versus during restudy only. Effective mediators must be retrievable at time of test and must elicit the target response. We evaluated these two components of mediator effectiveness for learning foreign language translations during practice involving either test-restudy or restudy only. Supporting the mediator effectiveness hypothesis, test-restudy practice resulted in mediators that were more likely to be retrieved and more likely to elicit targets on a final test.

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