Theories as a form of mental representation and their role in the recall of text information

Punyashloke Mishra, William F. Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This paper presents the results of two experiments investigating the role of instructed theories in the recall of text information. Participants in the experimental group read an explanatory scientific theory followed by a passage containing data either relevant or irrelevant to the corresponding theory. Control participants read non-explanatory theory passages and the same data passages. Both groups were asked to recall just the data passages. The experimental group showed improved recall for theory-relevant items and reduced recall for irrelevant items compared to the control group. This pattern of results suggests that the memory facilitation is due to theory-based attention processes leading to the construction of knowledge structures that combined elements from both the theory and the data passages. The results support approaches to instruction in science education that focus on the understanding of scientific theories versus those that emphasize the accumulation of facts. This research also offers insight into the importance of student motivation in understanding scientific theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-303
Number of pages27
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Knowledge representation
  • Mental models
  • Mental representation
  • Schemata
  • Science education
  • Text memory
  • Text recall
  • Theories
  • Theory memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Theories as a form of mental representation and their role in the recall of text information'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this