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  • Sarah Shi Hui Wong

A Mind-Wandering Account of the Testing Effect (Wong & Lim, 2022, PBR)

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Reference Wong, S. S. H., & Lim, S. W. H. (2022). A mind-wandering account of the testing effect: Does context variation matter? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 29(1), 220–229.


Wong & Lim (2022) A mind-wandering account of the testing effect - Does context variation
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Abstract The learning benefits of retrieval practice have been linked to reduced mind-wandering, but the reasons why testing offers such an attentional advantage have scarcely been explored. Here, we investigate the extent that the inherent change in learning context during retrieval practice (i.e., interleaved study and retrieval) attenuates mind-wandering, relative to restudy (i.e., massed study). Learners (N = 120) either restudied video lectures (SSSS) or engaged in a combination of study and retrieval (SRSR). Further, they used either the same study mode – the video lecture (S) or its corresponding transcript (S′) only (i.e., SSSS or S′S′S′S′; SRSR or S′RS′R), or different study modes-alternated between the video and its transcript (i.e., SS′SS′ or S′SS′S; SRS′R or S′RSR). Learners’ mind-wandering tendencies were captured using a direct-probing approach, and a free-recall test was administered 1 week later. Retrieval practice produced less mind-wandering than restudy, and this attentional difference mediated the recall advantage of retrieval practice. Of note, in the restudy condition, alternating between study modes inoculated against mind-wandering relative to using the same mode, but only for as long as the study mode remained “new” to learners – when they returned to a previously encountered “old” study mode, mind-wandering surged. In contrast, retrieval practice consistently sustained learners’ attention over time, whether or not their study modes were the same or different. Theoretical implications for an attentional account of retrieval-based learning are discussed.

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