Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Tim Curran

Abstract

As computers and smartphones see more widespread use in society today, multiple studies have arisen to explore their effects on learning and memory, and if they are truly as beneficial a tool as they are understood to be. Prior research suggests that digital accessibility results in poorer encoding of information due to individuals automatically perceiving an increased availability because of computers’ more mainstream use. This study attempts to explore this effect through two experiments modeled after an experiment by Schwikert (2017) that presents stimuli to participants, telling them through pre-cues “Saved” and “Erased” that half of the stimuli will be available for review before the test phase (Saved), and the other half will not (Erased). Schwikert found that information marked with the “Erased” pre-cue was later remembered better than those marked with the “Saved” pre-cue. The present Experiment 1 uses the design from Schwikert’s experiment, except it does not explicitly mention a future accessibility to participants, and rather implies it by informing them that the stimuli presented will be stored online. It was designed to determine if there is an automaticity of digital accessibility, by removing the explicit instructions. The second experiment was identical to Experiment 1, except that participants were explicitly told they would have access to the “Saved” stimuli, more similar to Schwikert’s experiment. Experiment 1’s results found saved pairs being recalled better than erased pairs, while Experiment 2’s found erased pairs being recalled better than saved pairs (replicating Schwikert, 2017), suggesting that only implying that information is stored online is not enough to elicit an automatic response to cognitively offload information.

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