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Publication - Dr David Turk

    Selfish learning

    The impact of self-referential encoding on children’s literacy attainment


    Turk, DJ, Gillespie-Smith, K, Krigolson, O, Havard, C, Conway, M & Cunningham, S, 2015, ‘Selfish learning: The impact of self-referential encoding on children’s literacy attainment’. Learning and Instruction, vol 40., pp. 54-60


    Self-referencing (i.e., thinking about oneself during encoding) can increase attention toward to-be-encoded material, and support memory for information in adults and children. The current inquiry tested an educational application of this ‘self reference effect’ (SRE) on memory. A self-referential modification of literacy tasks (vocabulary spelling) was tested in two experiments. In Experiment 1, seven-to nine-year-old children (N = 47) were asked to learn the spelling of four nonsense words by copying the vocabulary and generating sentences. Half of the children were asked to include themselves as a subject in each sentence. Results showed that children in this self-referent condition produced longer sentences and increased spelling accuracy by more than 20%, relative to those in an other-referent condition. Experiment 2 (N = 32) replicated this pattern in real-word learning. These findings demonstrate the significant potential advantages of utilizing self-referential encoding in the classroom.

    Full details in the University publications repository