Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Colleen M. Parks

Second Committee Member

David E. Copeland

Third Committee Member

Joel S. Snyder

Fourth Committee Member

William M. Ramsey

Number of Pages



Learning new material may retroactively interfere with memory for older material. Retroactive interference research has typically focused on how similarity between old and new material affects recall of old material, which predicts greatest interference when similar material is presented just before test. However, mental effort may be another source of retroactive interference that could disrupt consolidation: Mental effort could cause the most retroactive interference when presented just after study. In Experiment 1, participants engaged in tasks designed to induce mental effort (e.g., solving easy or difficult math problems) at various times between the study and test of an associative recognition task. Although familiarity estimates were unaffected, the timing of mental effort affected recollection estimates. In Experiment 2, participants engaged in a different set of tasks designed to induce mental effort (e.g., solving easy or difficult anagrams) and increase similarity. Again, familiarity estimates were unaffected; however, mental effort marginally affected recollection estimates, but in a way that was inconsistent with expectations. The results showed inconsistent mental effort effects overall, consistent with some past research showing that mental effort may not always cause retroactive interference. The results also highlight the importance of a deeper investigation of retroactive interference effects in recognition memory.


associative recognition; consolidation; cue overload; dual process theory; episodic memory; signal detection


Cognitive Psychology | Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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