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Encoding Specificity Principle

 

Explanations > Memory > Encoding Specificity Principle

Description | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

Have you ever been upstairs, wanted something that is downstairs, gone downstairs and then forgotten what you wanted. In fact it is only when you go back upstairs again that you remember what it was that you wanted.

When you store something in memory, the memory is not just of the item being stored but also of the context in which the memory occurred. Recall and recognition thus may be triggered by elements of the context being present.

Discussion

Tulving (1982, 1983) linked storage, recall and recognition by the principle that context is a unifying factor. In his words:

The probability of successful retrieval of the target item is a montonically increasing function of informational overlap between the information present at retrieval and the information stored in memory.

So what?

To get people to remember something, make use of the context in which it happened.

See also

Tulving, E. (1982). Synergistic ecphory in recall and recognition. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 36, 130-147

Tulving, E. (1983). Elements of episodic memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

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