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In this study, we evaluate the conceptualization of encoding and retrieval processes established in previous studies that used a divided attention (DA) paradigm. These studies indicated that there were considerable detrimental effects of DA at encoding on later memory performance, but only minimal effects, if any, on divided attention at retrieval. We suggest that this asymmetry in the effects of DA on memory can be due, at least partially, to a confound between the memory phase (encoding and retrieval) and the memory requirements of the task (memory "for" encoded information versus memory "at" test). To control for this confound, we tested memory for encoded information and for retrieved information by introducing a second test that assessed memory for the retrieved information from the first test. We report the results of four experiments that use measures of memory performance, retrieval latency, and performance on the concurrent task, all of which consistently show that DA at retrieval strongly disrupts later memory for the retrieved episode, similarly to the effects of DA at encoding. We suggest that these symmetrical disruptive effects of DA at encoding and retrieval on later retrieval reflect a disruption of an episodic buffer (EB) or episodic register component (ER), rather than a failure of encoding or retrieval operations per se.


Jonathan Guez, Moshe Naveh-Benjamin. The asymmetrical effects of divided attention on encoding and retrieval processes: a different view based on an interference with the episodic register. PloS one. 2013;8(9):e74447

PMID: 24040249

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