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How Does Intentionality of Encoding Affect Memory for Episodic Information?

Lookup NU author(s): Jonna Nilsson, Dr Peter GallagherORCiD, Dr Tom SmuldersORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Episodic memory enables the detailed and vivid recall of past events, including target and wider contextual information. In this paper, we investigated whether/how encoding intentionality affects the retention of target and contextual episodic information from a novel experience. Healthy adults performed (i) a What-Where-When (WWW) episodic memory task involving the hiding and delayed recall of a number of items (what) in different locations (where) in temporally distinct sessions (when), and (ii) unexpected tests probing memory for wider contextual information from the WWW task. Critically, some participants were informed that memory for WWW information would be subsequently probed (intentional group), while this came as a surprise for others (incidental group). The probing of contextual information came as a surprise for all participants. Participants also performed several measures of episodic and non-episodic cognition from which common episodic and non-episodic factors were extracted. Memory for target (WWW) and contextual information was superior in the intentional group compared to the incidental group. Memory for target and contextual information was unrelated to factors of non-episodic cognition, irrespective of encoding intentionality. In addition, memory for target information was unrelated to factors of episodic cognition. However, memory for wider contextual information was related to some factors of episodic cognition, and these relationships differed between the intentional and incidental groups. Our results lead us to propose the hypothesis that intentional encoding of episodic information increases the coherence of the representation of the context in which the episode took place. This hypothesis remains to be tested.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Craig M, Butterworth K, Nilsson J, Hamilton CJ, Gallagher P, Smulders TV

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Learning and Memory

Year: 2016

Volume: 23

Issue: 11

Pages: 648-659

Print publication date: 01/11/2016

Acceptance date: 15/08/2016

Date deposited: 19/08/2016

ISSN (print): 1072-0502

ISSN (electronic): 1549-5485

Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press


DOI: 10.1101/lm.041491.115


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