Have you ever wondered if you would remember some information in the future? If so, you have made a judgment of learning (JOL). JOLs are part of our metamemory – our ability to reflect on our own memory.
JOLs about how likely we will be to remember a certain word – for example, in the case of a student studying for a vocabulary test – depend on beliefs and knowledge we have about how word frequency impacts memory. They are also influenced by a subjective feeling of ease we might get from the word. And scientists have wondered, which is more important to JOLs: our beliefs about a word, or our experience with it?
To clarify which factor better explains the effect of word frequency on JOLs, a group of scientists asked research study participants to make judgements of their personal learning before and after studying words. JOLs made before studying indicate the effects of the participants' beliefs only, but those made after indicate the effects of both their beliefs and their direct experience with the words.
Previous research has shown that common words are more easily remembered than rare words. So, the scientists tricked participants and lead them to believe the opposite, by telling them that rare words on a list were common, and vice versa. They found that JOLs made after the participants encountered each word were consistently higher for common words, even when researchers had said the words were rare. This points to a person's experience as an important factor in their judgements of their learning.
This line of research will help scientists understand how we make JOLs and to work on ways to improve people’s metamemories in different scenarios, such as learning new things.