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Zacks, R. T., Hasher, L., Sanft, H., & Rose, K. C. (1983). Encoding effort and recall: A cautionary note. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 9, 747-756.


In the five experiments reported here we attempted to demonstrate an effect on item memorability of the amount of effort expended during the encoding process. The encoding task in two experiments was anagram solving; here, solution difficulty was varied. In the third experiment, subjects were required to judge whether a word fit meaningfully into a sentence frame, and the ease of making this decision was manipulated. The final two experiments involved picture naming under time pressure; pictures were displayed either with no labels (easy condition) or, as in the picture-word version of the stroop task, with superimposed interfering labels (hard condition). In none of the experiments did our manipulations of difficulty/effortfulness of encoding influence item retention. These findings raise questions about the robustness of the effort phenomenon.

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