The successful use of memory requires us to be sensitive to the cues that will be present during retrieval. In many situations, we have some control over the external cues that we will encounter. For instance, learners create shopping lists at home to help remember what items to later buy at the grocery store, and they generate computer file names to help remember the contents of those files. Generating cues in the service of later cognitive goals is a complex task that lies at the intersection of metacognition, communication, and memory. In this series of experiments, we investigated how and how well learners generate external mnemonic cues. Across 5 experiments, learners generated a cue for each target word in a to-be-remembered list and received these cues during a later cued recall test. Learners flexibly generated cues in response to different instructional demands and study list compositions. When generating mnemonic cues, as compared to descriptions of target items, learners produced cues that were more distinct than mere descriptions and consequently elicited greater cued recall performance than those descriptions. When learners were aware of competing targets in the study list, they generated mnemonic cues with smaller cue-to-target associative strength but that were even more distinct. These adaptations led to fewer confusions among competing targets and enhanced cued recall performance. These results provide another example of the metacognitively sophisticated tactics that learners use to effectively support future retrieval.
- Cue generation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)