Promoting higher-order learning benefits by building lower-order mnemonic connections


Two experiments were conducted in an effort to combine a mnemonic strategy for remembering individual items with a mnemonic procedure for remembering, and reasoning about, inter-item relationships. In Experiment 1, students using the combined mnemonic approach were able to identify more individual items (fish names from their pictures) and were subsequently able to remember more components of six studied hierarchies (order, family, and species names of the fish) than did students in an 'own best method' control condition. Additionally, and importantly, mnemonic students outperformed control students on an analogy task requiring inferences about superordinate, subordinate, and coordinate relationships. In Experiment 2, the initial number of to-be-learned fish was reduced so that the performance of both mnemonic and control students was comparable with respect to fish identification. Despite such item-level comparability, an advantage for mnemonically instructed students was observed on both immediate and two-day-delayed hierarchy tests. We suggest that by cementing lower-order connections, mnemonic strategies facilitate students' learning of higher-order information. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Document Type




Publication Date


Journal Title

Applied Cognitive Psychology