Metacognition of the testing effect: Guiding learners to predict the benefits of retrieval

Jonathan G. Tullis, Jason R. Finley, Aaron S. Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


If the mnemonic benefits of testing are to be widely realized in real-world learning circumstances, people must appreciate the value of testing and choose to utilize testing during self-guided learning. Yet metacognitive judgments do not appear to reflect the enhancement provided by testing Karpicke & Roediger (Science 319:966-968, 2008). In this article, we show that under judicious conditions, learners can indeed reveal an understanding of the beneficial effects of testing, as well as the interaction of that effect with delay (Experiment 1). In that experiment, subjects made judgments of learning (JOLs) for previously studied or previously tested items in either a cue-only or a cue-target context, and either immediately or after a 1-day delay. When subjects made judgments in a cue-only context, their JOLs accurately reflected the effects of testing, both immediately and at a delay. To evaluate the potential of exposure to such conditions for promoting generalized appreciation of testing effects, three further experiments elicited global predictions about restudied and tested items across two study/test cycles (Experiments 2, 3, and 4). The results indicated that learners' global naïve metacognitive beliefs increasingly reflect the beneficial effects of testing when learners experience these benefits with increasing external support. If queried under facilitative circumstances, learners appreciate the mnemonic enhancement that testing provides on both an item-by-item and global basis but generalize that knowledge to future learning only with considerable guidance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-442
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Guided instruction
  • JOLs
  • Metacognition
  • Monitoring
  • Testing effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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