Constructing a Knowledge Base through Memory Integration: Cognitive and Neural Factors Involved Open Access

Varga, Nicole Leigh (2016)

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The construction of a knowledge base fundamentally relies on memory integration--the combination of information acquired within or across separate learning episodes. Without the ability to integrate information learned at different times and in different places, building a domain of knowledge would not be possible. We also exhibit the striking capacity to extend far beyond what has been directly learned in order to generate new thoughts, ideas, and understandings never directly specified. Self-generative learning through memory integration is pervasive in human cognition; acts ranging from basic creativity to the derivation of scientific theories depend upon it. Though it is widely assumed that we all engage in this form of knowledge extension and that we do so regularly, the question of how information learned in separate episodes becomes integrated in memory to form new knowledge is far from understood. In the present research, behavioral, event-related potential (ERP), and academic measures were used to address: (1) the extent to which college-aged students successfully self-generate and retain knowledge newly derived through memory integration; (2) the distinct neurocognitive processes underlying this behavior, and (3) how variability in self-generation through integration contributes to real-world academic outcomes. Study 1 provided the first empirical demonstration that knowledge extension through memory integration supports the long-term accumulation of integrated knowledge in adults. Moreover, substantial individual differences were observed, which were linked to whether individuals spontaneously recognized the opportunity to integrate. ERP measures in Study 2 extended the behavioral results of Study 1 and showed that the opportunity to integrate is recognized within 400 msec of experience of a separate yet related learning episode, which then initiates a cascade of subsequent processes that support the integration and further extension of newly acquired knowledge. In Study 3, we found that variability in knowledge extension through integration is associated with measures of scholastic aptitude (SAT) and academic achievement (GPA). Together, the findings inform our understanding of the cognitive and neural factors associated with self-generation and retention of new factual knowledge through integration of separate yet related episodes of new learning, and provide insight into how to promote this educationally relevant learning phenomenon.

Table of Contents

List of Tables - 1

List of Figures - 2

General Introduction - 4

Study 1 - 10

Introduction - 11

Experiment 1 - 19

Method - 19

Results - 22

Discussion - 24

Experiment 2 - 25

Method - 25

Results - 29

Discussion - 31

Experiment 3 - 32

Method - 32

Results - 35

Discussion - 37

General Discussion - 39

References - 48

Appendix A - 54

Tables - 55

Figures - 56

Study 2 - 62

Introduction - 63

Method - 72

Results - 79

General Discussion - 84

References - 95

Tables - 104

Figures - 110

Study 3 - 116

Introduction - 117

Method - 123

Results - 131

General Discussion - 137

References - 147

Tables - 152

Figures - 155

General Discussion - 158

Addendum 1 - 169

Addendum 2 - 170

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