Read carefully, because this is important! How value-driven strategies impact sentence memory

Yu Min W. Chung, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is understood about how people strategically process and remember important but complex information, such as sentences. In the current study, we asked whether people can effectively prioritize memory for sentences as a function of their relative importance (operationalized as a reward point value) and whether they do so, in part, by changing their sentence processing strategies when value information is available in advance. We adapted the value-directed remembering paradigm (Castel, Psychol Learn Motiv 48:225–270, 2007) for sentences that varied in constraint and predictability. Each sentence was associated with a high or low value for subsequent free recall (whole sentence) and recognition (sentence-final words) tests. Value information appeared after or before each sentence as a between-subject manipulation. Regardless of condition, we observed that high-value sentences were recalled more often than low-value sentences, showing that people can strategically prioritize their encoding of sentences. However, memory patterns differed depending on when value information was available. Recall for high-value sentences that ended unexpectedly (and therefore violated one’s predictions) was reduced in the Before compared to the After condition. Before condition participants also showed a greater tendency to false alarm to lures (words that were the predicted – but not obtained – ending) from strongly constraining sentences. These observations suggest that when people try to prioritize sentence-level information that they know is valuable, the reading strategies they employ may paradoxically lead to worse memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1511-1526
Number of pages16
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Prediction
  • Sentence memory
  • Strategies
  • Value-directed remembering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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