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When enough is not enough: information overload and metacognitive decisions to stop studying information

Murayama, K., Blake, A. B., Kerr, T. and Castel, A. D. (2016) When enough is not enough: information overload and metacognitive decisions to stop studying information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 42 (6). pp. 914-924. ISSN 0278-7393

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1037/xlm0000213

Abstract/Summary

People are often exposed to more information than they can actually remember. Despite this frequent form of information overload, little is known about how much information people choose to remember. Using a novel “stop” paradigm, the current research examined whether and how people choose to stop receiving new—possibly overwhelming—information with the intent to maximize memory performance. Participants were presented with a long list of items and were rewarded for the number of correctly remembered words in a following free recall test. Critically, participants in a stop condition were provided with the option to stop the presentation of the remaining words at any time during the list, whereas participants in a control condition were presented with all items. Across five experiments, we found that participants tended to stop the presentation of the items to maximize the number of recalled items, but this decision ironically led to decreased memory performance relative to the control group. This pattern was consistent even after controlling for possible confounding factors (e.g., task demands). The results indicated a general, false belief that we can remember a larger number of items if we restrict the quantity of learning materials. These findings suggest people have an incomplete understanding of how we remember excessive amounts of information.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Social
ID Code:43136
Publisher:American Psychological Association.

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