Broader benefits of the pretesting effect: Placement matters

Faria Sana, Shana K. Carpenter

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Taking a test before learning new information in a lesson improves memory for that information – pretesting effect. Although the specific memory benefit of a pretest on pretested information has been well documented, it remains unclear what the circumstances necessary for the broader memory benefit are – that is, the benefit of a pretest on memory of information in the lesson that was not pretested. Sometimes this broader benefit is present, but other times it disappears or reverses. We investigated if manipulating where the non-pretested information appears in a lesson – either before or after the pretested information – affects broader memory benefits. Participants read a text passage (Experiment 1) or watched a video lecture (Experiment 2) after completing a pretest on half of the lesson content. The pretested information appeared either at the beginning (prior to the non-pretested information) or at the end (after the non-pretested information) of the lesson. The final test assessed memory of both pretested and non-pretested information. We hypothesized that pretests trigger an attentional window that opens during the lesson and closes after pretested information has been identified. Any information, including non-pretested information, will benefit from being in this window because it is more likely to be processed. We found that memory of non-pretested information is better if the non-pretested information is presented at the beginning versus at the end of a lesson, regardless of delivery modality. These results indicate that the presentation order of pretested versus non-pretested information contributes to the broader memory benefits associated with pretesting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1908-1916
Number of pages9
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct. 2023


  • Attentional window
  • Order effects
  • Prequestions
  • Pretesting


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