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Metacognitive control, serial position effects, and effective transfer to self-paced study

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M&C_ Murphy, Friedman, & Castel, 2021
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Metacognitive control, serial position effects, and effective transfer to self-paced study


Dillon H. Murphy, Michael C. Friedman & Alan D. Castel




Abstract

Serial position effects involve the differential recall of information based on its temporal order at encoding. Previous research indicates that learners may be aware of these effects under certain encoding conditions, but it is unclear whether metacognitive control is sensitive to serial position effects. The current study examined whether there are serial position effects in participants’ study time and whether they can learn about serial position effects under fixed encoding conditions and then transfer what they have learned to self-paced study conditions. Specifically, participants were given lists of to-be-remembered words and studied each word for a fixed duration on initial lists, but self-paced their study time on later lists. Results revealed that self-paced study times oppositely mirrored serial position effects (i.e., briefer study times in the beginning and end of each list), and serial position effects were reduced in self-paced study conditions, particularly in participants initially studying under fixed conditions before self-pacing their study time. Specifically, participants may have monitored their output and, based on observations of forgetting middle items, transferred their learning of serial position effects from prior lists. Thus, participants may use forgetting and serial position information to guide encoding, indicating that fundamental properties of the memory system can be incorporated into the processes that guide metacognitive control.

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