New manipulations to test stability bias and ease of processing effect on metamemory

Veneta Callpani | Lehman College| |Cognitive Psychology| |12/14/2020|



Thirty-nine undergraduate students in Cognitive Psychology class participated in a study designed to test metamemory. The academic background of the students is similar, they are psychology major, or/and Biology- brain science track. The average age = 25.9. There were 16 native English speaker and 23 were either bilingual or non-native speakers of English.


The study was conducted online. All participants had access to the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, and they all had a demo worksheet in front of them to complete. This was done synchronously. The worksheet had two columns, one was for the number of trials and the other one was for the estimated recall.  A list of 36 words in capital was presented to the students to study. These words selected varied in word frequency. The study list was organized in two parts : ½ of the high frequency words were presented one time in each list, and ½ of the low frequency words were presented two times in each list. A counterbalancing method was used to control the order effect. So, order of words in list one was reversed in list two. Each word that was studied one time in list one, was studied two times in list two. Each word that was studied two times in list one, was studied one time in list 2.

Participants were told to memorize these words, make an estimated recall of the words, and during the estimation they will be told weather they will be get a 1 or 2 total chances to study each word.


The students were provided with the demo worksheet and with the instructions for the experiment. Thirty-six words were presented with a note of whether each word will be repeated a second time or not. During the first presentation, students were asked to make an estimated call for each word expressed in a percentage from 0-100% chance of recalling that word later.  After studying these words and writing down the percentage of the estimated recall, a second presentation of the words that they were told to have a second chance opportunity to study, was shown to the students. After this, they were asked to write down as many words as they can remember in two minutes.  Next they were instructed to write down next to each word their estimation recall. Words order in first trial: legislate, history, morning, travesty, charade, courier, voucher, distance, flannel, article, original, careful, mistake, navigator, literary, fiasco, wardrobe, people, word, window, jamboree, trouble, physical, tonight, friend, scorpion, medicine, birthday, mustang, festival, serious, question, seep, obscenity, intestine, number, epidemic.


For all analyses, a paired samples t-test statistical procedure was used. Participants made judgement of learning for each word, and the average of words in each of four conditions- high frequency words presented once, low frequency words presented once, high frequency words presented twice, and low frequency words presented twice- was calculated. For each condition we calculated the percentage of those words recalled.

  An analysis of word frequency on predicted recall was made. To determine the effect of the word frequency on predicted recall, the difference between predicted recall for high frequency M=55.7 and predicated recall for low frequency M=39.4 was calculated. To compare these numbers, a paired samples t- test method was used and the result was reliable ( t(38)= 5.2, p< .001). The effect of word frequency in actual recall was also reliable (t(38)= 3.1, p< .004).

To calculate the number of study opportunities effect on predicted recall similar analysis was used. The difference was not reliable for the predicted recall ( t (38)= 1.4, p= .16) but it was reliable for the actual recall ( t(38)= 7.2, p< .001).

To determine whether metamemory matches the actual recall for the word frequency, the average predicted recall difference for high and low frequency was calculated to be M=16.3 , and M=10.5 for the actual recall. The difference of these numbers, using the paired sample t-test, was not reliable (t (38)= 1.48, p= .15). We used the same method to find whether the metamemory matches actual memory for study repetition.  The average difference for the predicted recall was 3.3% versus 20.4% for the actual recall. This difference was reliable ( t(38)=-, 5.63, p < .001).


Besken, M., & Mulligan, N. W. (2013). Easily perceived, easily remembered? Perceptual interference produces a double dissociation between metamemory and memory performance. Memory & cognition41(6), 897–903.

       Carpenter, S. K., Wilford, M. M., Kornell, N., & Mullaney, K. M. (2013). Appearances can be deceiving: instructor fluency increases perceptions of learning without increasing actual learning. Psychonomic bulletin & review20(6), 1350–1356.

       Kornell, N., Rhodes, M. G., Castel, A. D., & Tauber, S. K. (2011). The ease-of-processing heuristic and the stability bias: dissociating memory, memory beliefs, and memory judgments. Psychological science22(6), 787–794.

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