Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 1263–1277 | Cite as

Effects of divided attention at encoding and retrieval: Further data

  • Fergus I. M. CraikEmail author
  • Eldar Eftekhari
  • Malcolm A. Binns


Division of attention (DA) at the time of learning has large detrimental effects on subsequent memory performance, but DA at retrieval has much smaller effects (Baddeley, Lewis, Eldridge, & Thomson, 1984, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113, 518–540; Craik, Govoni, Naveh-Benjamin, & Anderson, 1996, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 125, 159–180). Experiment 1 confirmed the relatively small effects of DA on retrieval and also showed that retrieval operations do consume processing resources. The experiment also found that the effect is not attributable to a trade-off in performance with the concurrent task or to recognition decisions made on the basis of familiarity judgments. Participants made levels-of-processing (LOP) judgments during encoding to check whether deeper semantic judgments were differentially vulnerable to the effects of DA. In fact DA did not interact with LOP. Experiment 2 explored reports that the comparatively slight effect of DA on recognition accuracy is accompanied by a compensatory increase in recognition latency (Baddeley et al., 1984). The experiment replicated findings that neither DA nor differential emphasis between recognition and a concurrent continuous reaction time (CRT) task affected recognition accuracy, but also found evidence for a lawful trade-off in decision latencies between recognition and CRT performance. Further analysis showed that the relationship between response rates on the two tasks was well described by a linear function, and that this function was demonstrated by the majority of individual participants. It is concluded that the small effect of DA on recognition performance is attributable to a trade-off within the recognition task itself; accuracy is maintained by a compensatory increase in decision latency.


Divided attention Encoding Retrieval Response latency Response rate 



This work was supported by a research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to Fergus Craik (A8261). Correspondence concerning the article should be addressed to Fergus Craik, Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, 3560 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M6A 2E1. Email:


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fergus I. M. Craik
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eldar Eftekhari
    • 1
  • Malcolm A. Binns
    • 1
  1. 1.Rotman Research Institute at BaycrestTorontoCanada

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