Novelty’s effect on memory encoding

M. Rangel-Gomez, S. Janenaite, M. Meeter

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is often thought that novelty benefits memory formation. However, support for this idea mostly comes from paradigms that are open to alternative explanations. In the present study we manipulated novelty in a word-learning task through task-irrelevant background images. These background images were either standard (presented repeatedly), or novel (presented only once). Two types of background images were used: Landscape pictures and fractals. EEG was also recorded during encoding. Contrary to the idea that novelty aids memory formation, memory performance was not affected by the novelty of the background. In the evoked response potentials, we found evidence of distracting effects of novelty: both the N1 and P3b components were smaller to words studied with novel backgrounds, and the amplitude of the N2b component correlated negatively with subsequent retrieval. We conclude that although evidence from other studies does suggest benefits on a longer time scale, novelty has no instantaneous benefits for learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-21
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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