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Transfer-appropriate processing is a type of state-dependent memory specifically showing that memory performance is not only determined by the depth of processing (where associating meaning with information strengthens the memory; see levels-of-processing effect), but by the relationship between how information is initially encoded and how it is later retrieved. Memory will be best when the processes engaged in during encoding match those engaged in during retrieval.
An example of this is how when a sound is associated with a memory, recall is enhanced. This can be seen in some degree in rhythm games, such as in the video game Guitar Hero. When an individual plays the guitar, they are required to press keys corresponding with symbols on the screen. When doing this, a specific sound plays corresponding with the key pressed. What transfer-appropriate processing suggests is that after the initial learning had occurred, if the player were then to play the guitar without the associated sounds, there would be a decline in performance, whereas if sounds were heard, as it was originally, then performance will be enhanced.
This phenomenon has been shown empirically, specifically in a study by Morris and associates (1977) using semantic and rhyme tasks. In a standard recognition test, memory was better following semantic processing compared to rhyme processing (the levels-of-processing effect). However, in a rhyming recognition test, memory was better for those who engaged in rhyme processing compared to semantic processing.
- Goldstein, E. B. (2008). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (2nd ed.). Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.
- Morris, C. D., Bransford, J. D., & Franks, J. J. (1977). Levels of processing versus transfer appropriate processing. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 16, 519-533.
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