Evidence of a negative environmental reinstatement effect


Social Science Division, Widener University, Chester, PA 19013, USA


Experiment 1 investigated the suggestion that the effect of reinstating the encoding environment at the time of memory retrieval is most likely to influence performance positively when other retrieval cues are not readily available. It was predicted that a positive environmental reinstatement effect would be more likely in college students' memory for a list of words presented in booklet format than for a passage of prose because the inherent organizational structure of the passage would provide a framework for retrieval and make environmental cues relatively unimportant. However, recall of both types of material was greater in the condition in which study and test took place in different environments (p < ·05). In Expt 2, this same negative environmental reinstatement effect was found using auditory presentation of the word list (p < ·05). The results suggest that reinstating the encoding context at the time of retrieval may under certain conditions prompt reliance on overloaded environmental cues at the expense of other potentially more effective retrieval strategies.