Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Experimental Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Lyle, Keith

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

Depue, Brendan

Committee Member

Dove, Guy

Committee Member

Newton, Tamara

Author's Keywords

memory; experimental psychology; individual differences; context


Though people often remember experiences from their lives, they are also able to remember whether a memory has previously been retrieved, which is known as memory for prior remembering. Frequent failures of memory for prior remembering can have negative consequences on how people perceive their own cognitive health. The recurrence of traumatic memory retrieval can be interpreted as a consequence of intrusive memory for prior remembering. This dissertation was conducted to improve our understanding of the factors that influence the efficacy of memory for prior remembering. The two factors that were investigated were context change and individual differences. Participants (N = 180) completed a three-phase memory procedure. In the first phase, participants learned a series of cue-target word pairs. In the second phase, participants were given a cued-recall test (Test 1) for some of the pairs that they learned. Half of those targets were tested in the same context as the learning phase (same-context targets) and the other half were tested in a new context in which one feature had changed from the learning phase (changed-context targets). Three different types of contextual features could have changed in between-subjects fashion: the semantic context, background color context, or screen location context. In the third phase, participants were given a second cued-recall test (Test 2) in which all of the learned targets were tested in the original study context. During the third phase, participants were also asked to make a judgment about whether each target was retrieved during Test 1. Results showed that memory for prior remembering was only impaired for changed-context targets in the semantic change condition. Participants also completed questionnaires to measure individual differences in dispositional mindfulness and absorption. The only significant predictor of memory for prior remembering was absorption and only in the semantic change condition. The findings support a distinction between categorizing contextual features into local and global categories based on their associations with memory for stimuli and memory for prior remembering. Individual difference findings are discussed with respect to whether attention is focused on internal thoughts or external stimuli. Future directions and implications are also discussed.