Divided attention selectively impairs value-directed encoding

Blake L. Elliott, Gene A. Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In the present study, we examined the effect of value-directed encoding on recognition memory and how various divided attention tasks at encoding alter value-directed remembering. In the first experiment, participants encoded words that were assigned either high or low point values in multiple study-test phases. The points corresponded to the value the participants could earn by successfully recognizing the words in an upcoming recognition memory task. Importantly, participants were instructed that their goal was to maximize their score in this memory task. The second experiment was modified such that while studying the words participants simultaneously completed a divided attention task (either articulatory suppression or random number generation). The third experiment used a non-verbal tone detection divided attention task (easy or difficult versions). Subjective states of recollection (i.e., “Remember”) and familiarity (i.e., “Know”) were assessed at retrieval in all experiments. In Experiment 1, high value words were recognized more effectively than low value words, and this difference was primarily driven by increases in “Remember” responses with no difference in “Know” responses. In Experiment 2, the pattern of subjective judgment results from the articulatory suppression condition replicated Experiment 1. However, in the random number generation condition, the effect of value on recognition memory was lost. This same pattern of results was found in Experiment 3 which implemented a different variant of the divided attention task. Overall, these data suggest that executive processes are used when encoding valuable information and that value-directed improvements to memory are not merely the result of differential rehearsal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Divided Attention
  • Dual-Process Theory
  • Recognition Memory
  • Value-Directed Remembering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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