Is this going to be on the test? Test expectancy moderates the disfluency effect with Sans Forgetica


By Jason Geller & Daniel Peterson in Research

March 31, 2021


Presenting information in a perceptually disfluent format sometimes enhances memory. Recent work examining one type of perceptual disfluency manipulation, Sans Forgetica typeface, has yielded discrepant findings; some studies find support for the idea that the novel, disfluent typeface improves memory while others do not. To explore this discrepancy, the current study examined a boundary condition that determines when disfluency is and is not beneficial to learning. Specifically, we investigated whether knowledge about an upcoming test (high test expectancy) versus not (low test expectancy) helps clarify when mnemonic benefits arise for perceptually disfluent stimuli. In Experiment 1 (preregistered, N = 231), we found that Sans Forgetica is a memory-improving desirable difficulty, but only when there was no expectation of a final test. In Experiment 2 (preregistered N = 232), we conceptually replicated these results using a cued recall test. In Experiment 3 (preregistered, N = 232), we ruled out a time-on-task explanation for these outcomes while replicating the results of Experiment 2. Though these data provide some evidence of San Forgetica’s mnemonic benefits, caution should be taken in interpreting these results. Not only were the effect sizes moderate in size, but low test expectancy may not be realistically achievable in actual educational contexts. Though more research is warranted, we echo our prior arguments that students wanting to remember more and forget less should stick to other, more empirically supported desirable difficulties shown to enhance memory.

Posted on:
March 31, 2021
2 minute read, 235 words
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