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The role of executive control in collaborative recall

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posted on 2022-03-29, 02:51 authored by Nikolas Wlliams
The purpose of this PhD program of research was to investigate the role of executive control in collaborative recall. While the costs and benefits of collaborative recall have been well-defined, little research has examined how the individuals within collaborative groups affect the outcomes. I hypothesized that executive control would influence collaborative recall because executive control is implicated in modulating individuals’ susceptibility to disruption and their ability to inhibit—two processes which are posited to contribute to collaborative costs. In a series of three experiments I investigated how the abilities that people brought into collaboration influenced collaborative recall as well as subsequent, postcollaborative recall. That is, how did individual differences in executive control influence: What people brought in to collaboration? How they performed in collaboration? and What they took away from collaboration? I examined executive control ability at the individual level as well as the group level. At the group level, I investigated both the average ability of group members as well as the difference between group members’ abilities. In Experiment 1 I found that neither individual ability nor group-level ability influenced collaborative recall. However, the difference in ability between group members predicted attenuated post-collaborative benefits. Lower ability individuals who had collaborated in groups with partners whose abilities were much higher than their own tended to forget previously remembered information. In Experiment 2 I pre-screened individuals and composed groups based on differing ability compositions. While I did not replicate results from Experiment 1, I did observe the standard costs and benefits of collaboration where people who collaborated were disrupted during collaboration, but recalled more information and became more accurate on subsequent individual recall compared to people who did not collaborate. In Experiment 3 I used a battery of cognitive tasks to derive an executive control component score intended to assess latent ability. I found a similar pattern of forgetting to Experiment 1, such that the difference between group members’ abilities predicted forgetting for the lower ability partners. This was further qualified by lower recognition performance for the lower ability partners, which suggested an inhibitory process was responsible. Overall, the findings from my PhD research suggest that collaborative recall does not influence all collaborators in the same way. In some groups, lower ability individuals do not benefit from collaboration to the same extent as their higher ability partners. This is due to losing originally remembered material, which questions the generally accepted wisdom that collaboration is beneficial for later individual memory. However, across all three studies I found evidence that the use of retrieval strategies might mitigate this effect. I discuss the theoretical implications, as well as practical implications for education and ageing.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. General introduction -- 2. A continuous measure approach to investigating the role of executive control in collaborative recall -- 3.An extreme groups approach to investigating the role of executive control in collaborative recall -- 4. A component score approach to investigating the role of executive control in collaborative recall -- Chapter 5. General discussion -- Chapter 6. Summary and future work -- References -- Appendices.


"Department of Cognitive Science, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia" -- title page. Empirical thesis. Bibliography: pages 187-205

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Celia B. Harris

Additional Supervisor 1

Amanda J. Barnier


Copyright Nikolas Williams 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




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