Deconstructing the effect of self-directed study on episodic memory

Douglas Markant, Sarah DuBrow, Lila Davachi, Todd M. Gureckis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-directed learning is often associated with better long-term memory retention; however, the mechanisms that underlie this advantage remain poorly understood. This series of experiments was designed to “deconstruct” the notion of self-directed learning, in order to better identify the factors most responsible for these improvements to memory. In particular, we isolated the memory advantage that comes from controlling the content of study episodes from the advantage that comes from controlling the timing of those episodes. Across four experiments, self-directed learning significantly enhanced recognition memory, relative to passive observation. However, the advantage for self-directed learning was found to be present even under extremely minimal conditions of volitional control (simply pressing a button when a participant was ready to advance to the next item). Our results suggest that improvements to memory following self-directed encoding may be related to the ability to coordinate stimulus presentation with the learner’s current preparatory or attentional state, and they highlight the need to consider the range of cognitive control processes involved in and influenced by self-directed study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1211-1224
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2014


  • Decision making
  • Memory
  • Metacognition
  • Metamemory
  • Object recognition
  • Self-directed learning
  • Self-regulated learning
  • Spatial cognition
  • Volitional control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Deconstructing the effect of self-directed study on episodic memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this