The role of exploratory decision-making in enhancing episodic memory


Studies of episodic memory are typically passive in that the learner can’t control the sequence and timing of stimulus presentation. This approach obscures how people alter their learning by choosing to study some items over others, a decision-making process with many implications for memory. Voss (2011) showed that when people made decisions about what to study their memory was better than when “yoked” to the decisions of another person, and they derived a specific benefit from revisiting recent items. The source of this benefit is unclear, however, since previous studies have not separated the effect of executing study decisions from that of resulting “personalized” study opportunities. By varying the decision-maker’s degree of control over the study experience, we show that people still benefit from making study decisions even when unable to revisit items or choose what material to study next, highlighting the role of decision-related processes in improving episodic encoding.

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