Changing environmental context does not reliably affect memory

Angel Fernandez, Arthur M. Glenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Most current theories of human memory propose that context, defined here as the time and place at which an event was experienced, forms an integral feature of the mnemonic representation of events. One way of investigating context is by manipulating the environmental context (which typically means the room in which the experiment takes place). The predominant result of this manipulation reported in the literature has been consistent with theory: Memory performance is better when the learning and testing environments are the same than when they differ. This article reports eight experiments that in aggregate challenge the reliability of this same-context advantage. Experiment 1 reported a failure to obtain a same-context advantage. Experiments 2-7 investigated various features of the design that might have reduced the effect. None of these experiments produced a reliable same-context advantage. Experiment 8 repeated the methodology of a published report of a same-context advantage with more than double the number of subjects, but failed to replicate the effect. An analysis of features of the experiments led to two suggestions for future investigations of the effects of changes in environmental context on memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-345
Number of pages13
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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