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Testing effect

The testing effect refers to enhanced memory resulting from the act of retrieving information, as compared to simply reading or hearing the information. The effect is also sometimes referred to as 'retrieval practice' or 'test-enhanced learning'.

Many experiments conducted by experimental psychologists have demonstrated the testing effect. In one such study, participants were shown a stimulus word and a response word, and sought to learn the connection between the two. In the control condition, the subjects saw both words presented together on a computer screen for 10 seconds; in the testing condition, they saw only the stimulus word for the first 5 seconds (during which time they were invited to try to recall the response word), followed by 5 more seconds with both words present on the screen. The testing condition produced significantly better later associative memory (providing the response term given the stimulus term), despite the fact that in this condition, subjects were given less exposure time with all of the to-be-remembered information, not more (Carrier & Pashler, 1992)[1].

Recent findings show that testing seems to slow down the rate of forgetting, as well as increasing the initial strength of a memory (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006a).



Before much experimental evidence had been collected, the utility of testing was already apparent to some insightful observers. In his 1932 book Psychology of Study, Prof. C. A. Mace said "On the matter of sheer repetitive drill there is another principle of the highest importance: Active repetition is very much more effective than passive repetition. ... there are two ways of introducing further repetitions. We may re-read this list: this is passive repetition. We may recall it to mind without reference to the text before forgetting has begun: this is active repetition. It has been found that when acts of reading and acts of recall alternate, ie when every reading is followed by an attempt to recall the items, the efficiency of learning and retention is enormously enhanced." (p. 39)

Recent work [[2]] shows that students can markedly enhance their memory for material in textbook chapters by writing down a full description of the lecture content from memory.


For a recent review, see Roediger and Karpicke (2006b[[3]]).

See also: list of memory biases, mnemonic.


  • Carrier, M. & Pashler, H. (1992). [4] The influence of retrieval on retention. Memory and Cognition, 20, 632-642.
  • Roediger, H.L. & Karpicke, J.D. (2006a). [5] Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249-255.
  • Roediger, H. L. & Karpicke, J. D. (2006b). [6] The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.


  • / Psychological Science article on current research
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Testing_effect". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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