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

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


The present study is an expansion on prior research about metamemory. New manipulations of word frequency and study repetition were introduced to test the ease of process and stability bias. Thirty-nine college students, native and non-native English speaker, participated in the study. The data and results are consistent with stability bias hypothesis: students underestimated the word repetition because of their beliefs of the stability of their memory; but not with the ease of process ( the high frequency words had no significant effect). Further studies can be made to determine whether the non-native English speaker had an effect on this different result and see how language might be related to metamemory.


Metamemory is the prediction people make about their memory based on their judgements and belief they have about how memory operates. We use this every day even when we are not aware of it. When we say “I will never forget the year of Covid-19 pandemic” we are making a judgment about that specific memory, or when decide not to review for the test one day prior is because of our belief that we already know all the information. Metamemory is important because it drives our everyday decisions on what we need to learn, how long we need to study, where to focus our attention.  These beliefs can create biases which can lead to bad decisions.
Because of the important role metamemory plays in our life, many research and experiments have been conducted to determine how accurate metamemory is, are our beliefs justified or biased and what factors might influence that bias.

 A double dissociation between metamemory and memory performance has been shown when testing the perceptual fluency hypothesis (Beksen&Mulligan 2013). The hypotheses stated that easily perceived items are predicted to be remembered better regardless of the actual memory. To test this hypothesis, researches manipulated perceptual fluency by inducing perceptual interference using backward mask. The results supported the theory: participants predicted they would recall better words that they perceived as fluent, but they recalled better words where perceptual interference was added.  Another study that supports this hypothesis and shows that fluency affects both metacognition and metamemory was conducted by Carpetner, Wilford, Kornell & Mullaney, (2013). They separated two groups of students and had them view two videos; one fluent lecture and one disfluent version of the same lecture by the same professor. The group of students who viewed the fluent lecture predicted that they learned compare to the other group, however, the actual memory performance did not differ as a function of the lecture fluency.

Kornell, Rhodes, Caste, & Tauber (2011) suggested that people think their memories are much more stable than they really are. This is called stability bias and to test this, they conducted two experiments where participants had to memorize a list of words. The study design featured two variables: type size (small and large) and number of study trials (one or two). Participants were given instructions, then asked to estimate the chance of recalling each word. The results were as expected. Participants perceived the large type size words as fluent, easier to remember therefore they predicted a high percentage of recall, but the number of study trials only effected the actual recall. Next, they added 3 additional chances to study the words, and in this case the prediction of the recall was higher.

After reviewing these past researches, considering that the ease of process is correct, then anything that influences ease of process will influence the judgment of learning. If we perceive something as easy to process, then our belief that we have learned more increases. There is a way to expand this ease of processing hypothesis by testing a new manipulation. The goal of this experiment is to test how does new manipulation such as word frequency affects the easy of process, and how study repetition manipulation is related to the stability bias. We expect that word frequency will be perceived as easy to remember, therefore participants will predict to recall more those words, and they will not take in consideration the announcement of repetition words because they believe their memory is much more stable than it really is.


       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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