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Providing extrinsic reward for test performance undermines long-term memory acquisition

Kuhbandner, C., Aslan, A., Emmerdinger, K. and Murayama, K. (2016) Providing extrinsic reward for test performance undermines long-term memory acquisition. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. 79. ISSN 1664-1078

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00079


Based on numerous studies showing that testing studied material can improve long-term retention more than restudying the same material, it is often suggested that the number of tests in education should be increased to enhance knowledge acquisition. However, testing in real-life educational settings often entails a high degree of extrinsic motivation of learners due to the common practice of placing important consequences on the outcome of a test. Such an effect on the motivation of learners may undermine the beneficial effects of testing on long-term memory because it has been shown that extrinsic motivation can reduce the quality of learning. To examine this issue, participants learned foreign language vocabulary words, followed by an immediate test in which one-third of the words were tested and one-third restudied. To manipulate extrinsic motivation during immediate testing, participants received either monetary reward contingent on test performance or no reward. After 1 week, memory for all words was tested. In the immediate test, reward reduced correct recall and increased commission errors, indicating that reward reduced the number of items that can benefit from successful retrieval. The results in the delayed test revealed that reward additionally reduced the gain received from successful retrieval because memory for initially successfully retrieved words was lower in the reward condition. However, testing was still more effective than restudying under reward conditions because reward undermined long-term memory for concurrently restudied material as well. These findings indicate that providing performance–contingent reward in a test can undermine long-term knowledge acquisition.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:56335
Uncontrolled Keywords:testing effect, motivation, high-stakes testing, long-term memory, monetary reward
Publisher:Frontiers Media


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