Depth of Processing and the Retention of Words

This experiment is based on the following paper:

Craik, F. & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104, 268-294. Copyright (1975) by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.


The experiment reported here is one of several designed to explore the authors’ Depth of Processing theory of memory.

The basic notions are that the episodic memory trace may be thought of as a rather automatic by-product of operations carried out by the cognitive system and that the durability of the trace is a positive function of “depth” of processing, where depth refers to greater degrees of semantic involvement. (p.268)

According to this theory, words processed more deeply should have stronger, more durable traces–and thus be easier to recall.


The full text describing the experiment is available here.

The experiments are available below. (215 KB) (322 KB)