Relaxed conditions can provide memory cues in both undergraduates and primary school children

Br J Educ Psychol. 2002 Dec;72(Pt 4):531-47. doi: 10.1348/00070990260377596.


Background: Memory can be impaired by changes between the contexts of learning and retrieval (context-dependent memory, CDM). However, the reminder properties of context have usually been investigated by experimental manipulation of cues in isolation, underestimating CDM that results from interactions between cues.

Aims: To test whether CDM can be demonstrated using multiple contextual cues combined to create relaxing versus neutral contexts at separate learning and memory testing stages of the experiments.

Sample: Forty university undergraduates (in Experiment 1), and forty 9-10 year-olds (in Experiment 2).

Methods: All participants were given age-appropriate tasks under either relaxing or neutral conditions. The next day they were tested for retrieval or practice effects, under the same or different (relaxing versus neutral) conditions.

Results: For both age groups, there was a (mostly asymmetric) CDM effect with performance generally best in the relaxing-relaxing condition. There was also some overall benefit of having learned under relaxed conditions.

Conclusion: A relaxed learning environment can provide effective retrieval cues, as well as improve learning.

Comment: For both primary school children and university students, the educational implication of these findings is that learning can be improved in a relaxed state. For this benefit to be fully manifest, the assessment of learning should also take place under relaxed conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association Learning*
  • Child
  • Cues*
  • Curriculum
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Relaxation / psychology*
  • Schools
  • Students / psychology*