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Memory Cognition 1978 Vol 6 4 342 353 Environmental context and human memory STEVEN M SMITH and ARTHUR GLENBERG Universi v of Wisconsin Madison Wisconsin 53706 and ROBERT A BJORK University of California Los Angeles California 90024 Five experiments examined the effects of environmental context on recall and recognition In Experiment 1 variability of input environments produced higher free recall performance than unchanged input environments Experiment 2 showed improvements in cued recall when storage and test contexts matched using a paradigm that unconfounded the variables of context mismatching and context change In Experiment 3 recall of categories and recall of words within a category were better for same context than different context recall In Experiment 4 subjects given identical input conditions showed strong effects of environmental context when given a free recall test yet showed no main effects of context on a recognition test The absence of an environmental context effect on recognition was replicated in Experiment 5 using a cued recognition task to control the semantic encodings of test words In the discussion of these experiments environmental context is compared with other types of context and an attempt is made to identify the memory processes influenced by environmental context That one s ability to retrieve or recognize an item is heavily influenced by the relation between that item s storage and retrieval contexts is indisputable Context however is a kind of conceptual garbage can that denotes a great variety of intrinsic or extrinsic characteristics of the presentation or test of an item The particular concern of this article is whether the general environmental context in which an item is presented or tested can be conceptualized to function in the same fashion as contextual factors that have more obvious influences on the encoding of an item such as the nature of surrounding items Gartman Johnson 1972 A second concern of this article is to

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