Subscribe: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied - Vol 15, Iss 4
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The mission of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied is to publish original empirical investigations in experimental psychology that bridge practically oriented problems and psychological theory. The journal also publishes research aimed at deve

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Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

Understanding the cognitive processes involved in writing to learn.


Writing is often used as a tool for learning. However, empirical support for the benefits of writing-to-learn is mixed, likely because the literature conflates diverse activities (e.g., summaries, term papers) under the single umbrella of writing-to-learn. Following recent trends in the writing-to-learn literature, the authors focus on the underlying cognitive processes. They draw on the largely independent writing-to-learn and cognitive psychology learning literatures to identify important cognitive processes. The current experiment examines learning from 3 writing tasks (and 1 nonwriting control), with an emphasis on whether or not the tasks engaged retrieval. Tasks that engaged retrieval (essay writing and free recall) led to better final test performance than those that did not (note taking and highlighting). Individual differences in structure building (the ability to construct mental representations of narratives; Gernsbacher, Varner, & Faust, 1990) modified this effect; skilled structure builders benefited more from essay writing and free recall than did less skilled structure builders. Further, more essay-like responses led to better performance, implicating the importance of additional cognitive processes such as reorganization and elaboration. The results highlight how both task instructions and individual differences affect the cognitive processes involved when writing-to-learn, with consequences for the effectiveness of the learning strategy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Timing of quizzes during learning: Effects on motivation and retention.


This article investigates how the timing of quizzes given during learning impacts retention of studied material. We investigated the hypothesis that interspersing quizzes among study blocks increases student engagement, thus improving learning. Participants learned 8 artificial facts about each of 8 plant categories, with the categories blocked during learning. Quizzes about 4 of the 8 facts from each category occurred either immediately after studying the facts for that category (standard) or after studying the facts from all 8 categories (postponed). In Experiment 1, participants were given tests shortly after learning and several days later, including both the initially quizzed and unquizzed facts. Test performance was better in the standard than in the postponed condition, especially for categories learned later in the sequence. This result held even for the facts not quizzed during learning, suggesting that the advantage cannot be due to any direct testing effects. Instead the results support the hypothesis that interrupting learning with quiz questions is beneficial because it can enhance learner engagement. Experiment 2 provided further support for this hypothesis, based on participants’ retrospective ratings of their task engagement during the learning phase. These findings have practical implications for when to introduce quizzes in the classroom. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

An easy game for frauds? Effects of professional experience and time pressure on passport-matching performance.


Despite extensive research on unfamiliar face matching, little is known about factors that might affect matching performance in real-life scenarios. We conducted 2 experiments to investigate the effects of several such factors on unfamiliar face-matching performance in a passport-check scenario. In Experiment 1, we assessed the effect of professional experience on passport-matching performance. The matching performance of 96 German Federal Police officers working at Munich Airport was compared with that of 48 novices without specific face-matching experience. Police officers significantly outperformed novices, but nevertheless missed a high ratio of frauds. Moreover, the effects of manipulating specific facial features (with paraphernalia like glasses and jewelry, distinctive features like moles and scars, and hairstyle) and of variations in the physical distance between the faces being matched were investigated. Whereas manipulation of physical distance did not have a significant effect, manipulations of facial features impaired matching performance. In Experiment 2, passport-matching performance was assessed in relation to time constraints. Novices matched passports either without time constraints, or under a local time limit (which is typically used in laboratory studies), or under a global time limit (which usually occurs during real-life border controls). Time pressure (especially the global time limit) significantly impaired matching performance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Can we “apply” the findings of Forster and Lavie (2008)? On the generalizability of attentional capture effects under varying levels of perceptual load.


Perceptual Load theory states that the degree of perceptual load on a display determines the amount of leftover attentional resources that the system can use to process distracting information. An important corollary of this theory is that the amount of perceptual load determines the vulnerability of the attention system to being captured by completely irrelevant stimuli, predicting larger amounts of capture with low perceptual load than with high perceptual load. This prediction was first confirmed by Forster and Lavie (2008). Here, we report 6 experiments that followed up on those earlier results, where we find that in many cases, the opposite pattern is obtained: attentional capture increased with increasing perceptual load. Given the lack of generalizability of the theory to new experimental contexts with fairly minor methodological differences, we conclude that Perceptual Load may not be a useful framework for understanding attentional capture. The theoretical and applied importance of these findings is discussed. In particular, we caution against using this theory in applied tasks and settings because best-use recommendations stemming from this theory regarding strategies to decrease distractibility may in fact produce the opposite effect: an increase in distractibility (with distractibility being indexed by the magnitude of the capture effect). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Forgetting induced speeding: Can prospective memory failure account for drivers exceeding the speed limit?


It is generally assumed that drivers speed intentionally because of factors such as frustration with the speed limit or general impatience. The current study examined whether speeding following an interruption could be better explained by unintentional prospective memory (PM) failure. In these situations, interrupting drivers may create a PM task, with speeding the result of drivers forgetting their newly encoded intention to travel at a lower speed after interruption. Across 3 simulated driving experiments, corrected or uncorrected speeding in recently reduced speed zones (from 70 km/h to 40 km/h) increased on average from 8% when uninterrupted to 33% when interrupted. Conversely, the probability that participants traveled under their new speed limit in recently increased speed zones (from 40 km/h to 70 km/h) increased from 1% when uninterrupted to 23% when interrupted. Consistent with a PM explanation, this indicates that interruptions lead to a general failure to follow changed speed limits, not just to increased speeding. Further testing a PM explanation, Experiments 2 and 3 manipulated variables expected to influence the probability of PM failures and subsequent speeding after interruptions. Experiment 2 showed that performing a cognitively demanding task during the interruption, when compared with unfilled interruptions, increased the probability of initially speeding from 1% to 11%, but that participants were able to correct (reduce) their speed. In Experiment 3, providing participants with 10s longer to encode the new speed limit before interruption decreased the probability of uncorrected speeding after an unfilled interruption from 30% to 20%. Theoretical implications and implications for road design interventions are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Commercial motor vehicle driving performance: An examination of attentional resources and control using a driving simulator.


Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers often multitask when driving to increase travel efficiency and to increase alertness. Secondary tasks have been shown to impact CMV driving differentially, and attentional resources have been posited as a key factor. However, underlying mechanisms of secondary task engagement on attention and task performance have not been fully examined. Additionally, it is unknown if attentional control moderates these differential effects of secondary tasks and task performance. The current study aimed to examine decrements in driving performance from a resource-control theory by determining the specific relation between attentional resources and attentional control. To achieve this goal, 2 objectives were determined. Objective 1 considered the differential impact of secondary tasks on attentional resources in CMV driving performance. Objective 2 investigated individual differences in attentional control in the sample of CMV drivers. Fifty CMV drivers (Mage = 39.8 years, SD = 8.36) completed the 10-min psychomotor vigilance task providing measures of attentional control and also drove in a CMV driving simulator 4 times while presented with 1 of 4 secondary tasks. Findings linked secondary tasks to attentional resources, which, consequently affected CMV driving performance. The mediating effect of attentional resources significantly differed among varying levels of attentional control. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Training impulsive choices for healthy and sustainable food.


Many people find it hard to change their dietary choices. Food choice often occurs impulsively, without deliberation, and it has been unclear whether impulsive food choice can be experimentally created. Across 3 exploratory and 2 confirmatory preregistered experiments we examined whether impulsive food choice can be trained. Participants were cued to make motor responses upon the presentation of, among others, healthy and sustainable food items. They subsequently selected these food items more often for actual consumption when they needed to make their choices impulsively as a result of time pressure. This effect disappeared when participants were asked to think about their choices, merely received more time to make their choices, or when choosing required attention to alternatives. Participants preferred high to low valued food items under time pressure and without time pressure, suggesting that the impulsive choices reflect valid preferences. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to train impulsive choices for food items while leaving deliberative choices for these items unaffected, and connect research on attention training to dual-process theories of decision making. The present research suggests that attention training may lead to behavioral change only when people behave impulsively. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Effects of interruption length on procedural errors.


We investigated effects of task interruption on procedural performance, focusing on the effect of interruption length on the rates of different categories of error at the point of task resumption. Interruption length affected errors involving loss of place in the procedure (sequence errors) but not errors involving incorrect execution of a correct step (nonsequence errors), implicating memory for past performance, rather than generalized attentional resources, as the disrupted cognitive process. Within the category of sequence errors, interruption length produced a complex pattern of effects, with repetitions of the preinterruption step showing different effects than errors at other offsets from the correct step. A cognitive model we developed previously accounts for the results in terms of decay and rehearsal of memory for past performance and activation spreading through a procedural representation of task knowledge. The model links different types of errors to different cognitive processes, informs potential interventions, and predicts interruption effects for sequential tasks like problem solving and counting. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)