Whether encoding variability facilitates memory is shown to depend on whether item-specific and relational processing are both performed across study blocks, and whether study items are weakly vs. strongly related. Variable-processing groups studied a word list once using an item-specific task and once using a relational task. Variable-task groups' two different study tasks recruited the same type of processing each block. Repeated-task groups performed the same study task each block. Recall and recognition were greatest in the variable-processing group, but only with weakly related lists. A variable-processing benefit was also found when task-based processing and list-type processing were complementary (e.g., item-specific processing of a related list) rather than redundant (e.g., relational processing of a related list). That performing both item-specific and relational processing across trials, or within a trial, yields encoding-variability benefits may help reconcile decades of contradictory findings in this area.
- Encoding variability
- False recognition
- Free recall
- Item-specific and relational processing