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Mock Research Experiment: The Generation Effect

This research study plans to look at and analyze the generation effect. The generation effect is the finding that self-generated stimuli will be both recalled and recognize with better performance than for read stimuli. This effect has been demonstrated primarily with words, yet this study uses pictorial stimuli within the experiment as opposed to using words. Because so many studies have been done focusing on the use of words, I decided to compose a study This that examines pictures within the generation effect and whether or not this effect influenced subjects memory. Memory was tested through different methods such as recall, recognition and also two different source monitoring tasks. The data obtained seemed to support the notion that the generation effect can and does occur for pictures.


The phenomenon of the generation effect is one which I have long found very interesting. The effect can be replicated for many different generated responses such as incongruous items, effortful items, distinct items and elaborate generated responses. However, all of my knowledge of experiments on the generation effect focused on the use of words. Thus, I thought it would be both interesting and fun to compose a study of the generation effect the relies on pictorial stimuli.

This experiement shows that indeed a generation effect can be achieved through pictorial stimuli and not just from word stimuli. This effect can be attributed to the extra cognitive operations required to make the self-generated names and features of the pictorial stimuli (Kinjo 2000). Although very little research has concerned pictures and the generation effect, I am not surprised to see the generation effect manifest itself in pictorial stimuli. I believe the extra sensory information involved in pictorial stimuli allows for greater mental stimulation for pictures and thus leads to better retention for these items. And I believe that each of these experiments showed that sensory information and not just semantics are important features of the generation effect.



The question this experiment sought to answeris: Does the generation effect occur for pictures? Based on previous reports of the generation effect for pictorial stimuli, the I would hy potehizethat indeed a generation effect would occur. Subjects in the experiment would identify pictures with moderately incomplete images and other complete images. Subjects were then tested for their memory of the studied pictures in free recall, recognition and a source-monitoring task. The experiment also raised the question of which of the three testing methods, would a larger generation effect occur. Based on previous findings, it was also hypothesized that the effect would be bigger for recognition than recall. The experiment also sought to determine how positioning of the tests may or may not alter the generation effect. For example, would the effect be increased when the source-monitoring task was given first. Each of these questions were specifically identified within this experiment to reach answers that may be interpolated to a broader level.

Based on these questions this experiment could then look to a more universal level and study what factors affect the generation effect for pictures and whether these factors differed for pictures compared to words. The generation effect for pictures may after all be attributed to one of two factors: greater activation of the picture's sensory features or by greater activation of the picture's semantic features (Huffman 2000).

To see the difference between tests and pictures, test stimuli were changed from pictures to complete words. This change in stimuli should indeed eliminate the sensory match that masked the generation effect in the name test condition of the first experiment. This however, was not the only change in the experiment. A second source-monitoring task was added to the experiment. This task was a success/failure task where subjects were asked to determine if they had successfully identified the target item as correct in the study condition. Through these two changes in experimental design, many new questions are raised. First, it is possible that through comparison between the magnitude of the generation effect across experiments to determine whether sensory or semantic features had greater influence over the generation effect. Furthermore, through comparisons between each of the source-monitoring tasks, it may be possible for the experimenters to determine the source of the generation effect. Other questions asked in the experiment at a more specific level are would the generated pictures be recognized better than the named ones during the recognition task. In the complete/incomplete task one question is whether subjects would remember incompleteness better than completeness. Answers to these questions should hopefully provide the experimenters with answers to some of the underlying issues around the generation effect such as its source and also the factors that influence its strength.


To conduct this experiment and achieve potential solutions to the questions raised by this experiment, the experiment adhered to the following procedure. The subjects for the experiment were 24 undergraduates who were participating in the experiment to fulfill a course requirement. Each subject sat in front of a 256 x 256 pixel screen of an Apple Macintosh Classic computer. To promote subjects' motivation, subjects were informed that the student with the highest score at the end of the experiment would receive a $25 reward. Subjects were also told the experiment was on how people identify pictures and were never informed that their memory would later be tested. During the study, the subjects were presented with 80 experimental pictures at one of two levels of fragmentation. Half of the pictures were moderately incomplete (generation study condition) and the other half were complete (naming condition). The pictures were simple black and white drawings of common objects and animals. The incomplete pictures of the generation condition had about 75% of the picture deleted. Each stimulus appeared on the screen for two seconds and then erased. Subjects were then asked to type the name of each picture and were then told if they were correct or incorrect. In addition, following each answer whether incorrect or correct, the stimulus appeared again with the correct name for two more seconds. Subjects received 3 points for each correct answer. Following the eighty trials, a distractor task appeared where subjects were asked to judge whether each of 22 pairs of two visual texture patterns were the same of different. This task took about 5 minutes.

The testing phase followed this distractor task. Half of the subjects received the free recall test and then the recognition and source monitoring task (which was determining whether the target had appeared as complete or incomplete during study). The other half of the subjects received testing in the reverse order. In free recall, subjects were asked to type as many names of studied picture as possible. In the recognition task subjects were instructed to press a key on the keyboard if they had seen the item during study or press a different key if they did not. Finally in the complete/incomplete source-monitoring task, subjects pressed a key for items they had seen as complete, another for items they saw as incomplete and another key if the target was a new item. For the recognition and source-monitoring tasks, the eighty items were also mixed with 40 additional items that had not been presented earlier and of these forty half were complete and half were incomplete (Niles 2000). Also, of the 40 generated pictures from the study condition, during testing, half of these pictures were displayed as moderately incomplete as in the study condition and half were instead viewed as complete images. It is also important to note that the subjects' accuracy and reaction time were all recorded by the computer.

In the second phase, the pictorial stimuli of the testing phase were also replaced with words. These words were the names of the pictures that were displayed during the study phase. There was no free recall in the second experiment. Subjects were again tested with a recognition task and the same complete/incomplete source-monitoring task. Also, an additional source monitoring task was added to the testing. This task was a success/failure task, where students had to answer the question of whether or not they had correctly identified the target earlier in the study phase of the experiment. Subjects again used the keyboard to produce their responses and the computer once again recorded accuracy and reaction time.


The first data from the experiment focuses on identification rates of pictures during the study condition. The identification rates during study for generated pictures was 51% and 92% for named pictures. And after analyzing the data from the test condition, indeed my hypothesis was supported, a generation effect can and did occur for pictures. Nowhere was this more evident than in the recall test. The proportion of recall scores for generated pictures was.57 and was a smaller.48 for named pictures. Also it was found that the generation effect and its magnitude held stagnant whether the recall was administered before or after the recognition and source-monitoring task. The effect was also the…[continue]

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