Episodic memory enables the detailed and vivid recall of past events, including target and wider contextual information. In this paper, we investigated whether/how encoding intentionality affects the retention of target and contextual episodic information from a novel experience. Healthy adults performed (1) a What-Where-When (WWW) episodic memory task involving the hiding and delayed recall of a number of items (what) in different locations (where) in temporally distinct sessions (when) and (2) unexpected tests probing memory for wider contextual information from the WWW task. Critically, some participants were informed that memory for WWW information would be subsequently probed (intentional group), while this came as a surprise for others (incidental group). The probing of contextual information came as a surprise for all participants. Participants also performed several measures of episodic and nonepisodic cognition from which common episodic and nonepisodic factors were extracted. Memory for target (WWW) and contextual information was superior in the intentional group compared with the incidental group. Memory for target and contextual information was unrelated to factors of nonepisodic cognition, irrespective of encoding intentionality. In addition, memory for target information was unrelated to factors of episodic cognition. However, memory for wider contextual information was related to some factors of episodic cognition, and these relationships differed between the intentional and incidental groups. Our results lead us to propose the hypothesis that intentional encoding of episodic information increases the coherence of the representation of the context in which the episode took place. This hypothesis remains to be tested.
Craig, M., Butterworth, K., Nilsson, J., Hamilton, C., & Smulders, T. (2016). How does intentionality of encoding affect memory for episodic information? Intentionality of encoding episodic information. Learning and Memory, 23(11), 648-659. https://doi.org/10.1101/lm.041491.115