A memory advantage for past-oriented over future-oriented performance feedback

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2018 Dec;44(12):1864-1879. doi: 10.1037/xlm0000549. Epub 2018 Mar 5.

Abstract

People frequently receive performance feedback that describes how well they achieved in the past, and how they could improve in future. In educational contexts, future-oriented (directive) feedback is often argued to be more valuable to learners than past-oriented (evaluative) feedback; critically, prior research led us to predict that it should also be better remembered. We tested this prediction in six experiments. Subjects read written feedback containing evaluative and directive comments, which supposedly related to essays they had previously written (Experiments 1-2), or to essays another person had written (Experiments 3-6). Subjects then tried to reproduce the feedback from memory after a short delay. In all six experiments, the data strongly revealed the opposite effect to the one we predicted: despite only small differences in wording, evaluative feedback was in fact recalled consistently better than directive feedback. Furthermore, even when adult subjects did recall directive feedback, they frequently misremembered it in an evaluative style. These findings appear at odds with the position that being oriented toward the future is advantageous to memory. They also raise important questions about the possible behavioral effects and generalizability of such biases, in terms of students' academic performance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Young Adult