Perceptual blurring and recognition memory: A desirable difficulty effect revealed Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Recent research in the area of desirable difficulty--defined as processing difficulty at either encoding or retrieval that improves long-term retention--has demonstrated that perceptually blurring an item makes processing less fluent, but does not improve remembering (Yue et al., 2013). This result led us to examine more closely perceptual blurring as a potential desirable difficulty. In Experiment 1, better recognition of blurry than clear words was observed, a result that contrasts with those reported by Yue et al. This result was replicated in Experiment 2, in which both mixed-list and pure-list designs were used. The following experiments were conducted to determine when blurring does and does not result in enhanced remembering. The desirable difficulty effect observed in Experiments 1 and 2 was replicated in Experiments 3A, 3B, and 3C, despite varying encoding intent during study, context reinstatement at the time of test, study list length, and the nature of the distractor task between study and test phases. It was only in Experiments 4A and 4B that a null effect of perceptual blurring on remembering was found. These experiments demonstrated that (1) the level of blurring used is critical, with a lower blurring level producing results similar to Yue et al. (2013), and (2) the introduction of judgments of learning at the time of study eliminated the benefit of blurring on remembering. These results extend the desirable difficulty principle to encoding manipulations involving perceptual blurring, and identify judgments of learning at encoding as a powerful moderator of this particular desirable difficulty effect.

publication date

  • September 2015