Elizabeth J. Marsh
  • Elizabeth J. Marsh

  • Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Psychology and Neuroscience
  • 212 Soc/psych Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
  • Campus Box 90086
  • Phone: (919) 660-5796
  • Fax: 919-660-5726
  • Homepage
  • Secondary web page
  • Overview

    Why do people sometimes erroneously think that Toronto is the capital of Canada or that raindrops are teardrop-shaped?  How is it that a word or fact can be “just out of reach” and unavailable?  What changes, if anything, when you read a novel or watch a movie that contradicts real life? Have you ever listened to a conversation only to realize that the speaker is telling your story as if it were their own personal memory? Why do some listeners fail to notice when a politician makes a blatantly incorrect statement? These questions may seem disparate on the surface, but they are related problems, and reflect my broad interests in learning and memory, and the processes that make memory accurate in some cases but erroneous in others. This work is strongly rooted in Cognitive Psychology, but also intersects with Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Education.
  • Specialties

    • Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Areas of Interest

    Acquisition, maintenance, and updating of knowledge bases
    Representation and processing of fiction
    Correcting student misconceptions
    Personalized learning
    Misattributions of familiarity and déjà vu
    Story-telling: Essay-writing and autobiographical retellings
    False memories
  • Education

      • Postdoctoral Research Fellow,
      • Washington University in St. Louis,
      • 2003
      • Ph.D.,
      • Cognitive Psychology,
      • Stanford University,
      • 1999
      • A.M.,
      • Cognitive Psychology,
      • Stanford University,
      • 1997
      • B.A.,
      • Psychology,
      • Drew University,
      • 1994
  • Awards, Honors and Distinctions

      • Langford Lecture Award,
      • Unknown,
      • December 2010
      • post doctoral fellowship,
      • National Institutes of Mental Health individual National Research and Service Award,
      • 2000-2003
      • Graduate Research Opportunity Grant,
      • Stanford University,
      • 1997
      • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship,
      • Office of Naval Research,
      • 1994-1997
      • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship,
      • 1994
      • Phi Betta Kappa,
      • Psi Chi,
      • 1993
  • Selected Publications

      • EJ Marsh, G Edelman and GH Bower.
      • 2001.
      • Demonstrations of a generation effect in context memory.
      • Memory and Cognition
      • 29:
      • 798-805
      • .
      Publication Description

      Generation often leads to increased memorability within a laboratory context (see, e.g., Slamecka & Graf, 1978). Of interest in the present study is whether the benefits of generation extend beyond item memory to context memory. To investigate this question, in three experiments, we asked subjects to remember in which of two contexts they had read or generated words. In Experiment 1, the contexts were two different rooms; in Experiment 2A, the contexts were two different computer screens; in Experiment 2B, the contexts were different perceptual characteristics of the to-be-remembered words. In all experiments, subjects were better at remembering the context of generated words than of read words.

      • EJ Marsh, ML Meade and HLR III.
      • 2003.
      • Learning facts from fiction.
      • Journal of Memory and Language
      • 49:
      • 519-536
      • .
      Publication Description

      People's knowledge about the world comes from many sources, including fictional ones such as movies and novels. In three experiments, we investigated how people learn and integrate information from fictional sources with their general world knowledge. Subjects read a series of short stories that contained information about the real world. After a short delay, all participants took a general knowledge test. Subjects did indeed use information from the stories to answer general knowledge questions. Prior reading of facts boosted participants' abilities to produce both obscure and better-known facts, and the effect held for both correct and incorrect facts (misinformation). Repeated reading of the stories increased the effect. After a delay of one week, effects of story exposure were strongest for items that also had been tested in the first session. Subjects were aware of using story information, but interestingly, story exposure also increased belief that the facts had been known prior to the experiment, even for misinformation answers that were rarely produced without story reading. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

      • EJ Marsh, PO Dolan, DA Balota and HL Roediger.
      • 2004.
      • Part-set cuing effects in younger and older adults..
      • Psychol Aging
      • 19:
      • 134-144
      • .
      Publication Description

      In 3 experiments, the authors examined part-set cuing effects in younger and older adults. Participants heard lists of category exemplars and later recalled them. Recall was uncued or cued with a subset of studied items. In Experiment 1, participants were cued with some of the category names, and they remembered fewer never-cued categories than a free-recall condition. In Experiment 2, a similar effect was observed for category exemplar cues. There was also an age difference: By some measures, a small number of cues impaired older adults more than younger. Experiment 3 replicated this result and found that older adults were disproportionately slow in the presence of cues. Across experiments, older adults showed robust part-set cuing effects, and sometimes, they were disproportionately impaired by cues.

      • HLK III and EJ Marsh.
      • 2005.
      • The positive and negative consequences of multiple-choice testing.
      • Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
      • 31:
      • 1155-1159
      • .
      Publication Description

      Multiple-choice tests are commonly used in educational settings but with unknown effects on students' knowledge. The authors examined the consequences of taking a multiple-choice test on a later general knowledge test in which students were warned not to guess. A large positive testing effect was obtained: Prior testing of facts aided final cued-recall performance. However, prior testing also had negative consequences. Prior reading of a greater number of multiple-choice lures decreased the positive testing effect and increased production of multiple-choice lures as incorrect answers on the final test. Multiple-choice testing may inadvertently lead to the creation of false knowledge. Copyright 2005 by the American Psychological Association.

      • EJ Marsh and LK Fazio.
      • 2006.
      • Learning errors from fiction: difficulties in reducing reliance on fictional stories..
      • Mem Cognit
      • 34:
      • 1140-1149
      • .
      Publication Description

      Readers rely on fiction as a source of information, even when fiction contradicts relatively well-known facts about the world (Marsh, Meade, and Roediger, 2003). Of interest was whether readers could monitor fiction for errors, in order to reduce suggestibility. In Experiment 1, warnings about errors in fiction did not reduce students' reliance on stories. In Experiment 2, all subjects were warned before reading stories written at 6th- or 12th-grade reading levels. Even though 6th-grade stories freed resources for monitoring, suggestibility was not reduced. In Experiment 3, suggestibility was reduced but not eliminated when subjects pressed a key each time they detected an error during story reading. Readers do not appear to spontaneously monitor fiction for its veracity, but can do so if reminded on a trial-by-trial basis.

      • EJ Marsh, HL Roediger, RA Bjork and EL Bjork.
      • 2007.
      • The memorial consequences of multiple-choice testing..
      • Psychon Bull Rev
      • 14:
      • 194-199
      • .
      Publication Description

      The present article addresses whether multiple-choice tests may change knowledge even as they attempt to measure it. Overall, taking a multiple-choice test boosts performance on later tests, as compared with non-tested control conditions. This benefit is not limited to simple definitional questions, but holds true for SAT II questions and for items designed to tap concepts at a higher level in Bloom's (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives. Students, however, can also learn false facts from multiple-choice tests; testing leads to persistence of some multiple-choice lures on later general knowledge tests. Such persistence appears due to faulty reasoning rather than to an increase in the familiarity of lures. Even though students may learn false facts from multiple-choice tests, the positive effects of testing outweigh this cost.

      • EJ Marsh and PO Dolan.
      • 2007.
      • Test-induced priming of false memories..
      • Psychon Bull Rev
      • 14:
      • 479-483
      • .
      Publication Description

      Of interest was whether prior testing of related words primes false memories in the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm. After studying lists of related words, subjects made old-new judgments about zero, three, or six related items before being tested on critical nonpresented lures. When the recognition test was self-paced, prior testing of list items led to faster false recognition judgments, but did not increase the rate of false alarms to lures from studied lists. Critically, this pattern changed when decision making at test was speeded. When forced to respond quickly--presumably precluding the use of monitoring processes--clear test-induced priming effects were observed in the rate of false memories. The results are consistent with an activation-monitoring explanation of false memories and support that retrieving veridical memories can be a source of memory error.

      • EJ Marsh.
      • 2007.
      • Retelling is not the same as recalling: Implications for memory.
      • Current Directions in Psychological Science
      • 16:
      • 16-20
      • .
      Publication Description

      In contrast to laboratory free recall (which emphasizes detailed and accurate remembering), conversational retellings depend upon the speaker's goals, the audience, and the social context more generally. Because memories are frequently retrieved in social contexts, retellings of events are often incomplete or distorted, with consequences for later memory. Selective rehearsal contributes to the memory effects, as does the schema activated during retelling. Retellings can be linked to memory errors observed in domains such as eyewitness testimony and flashbulb memories; in all of these situations, people retell events rather than engage in verbatim remembering. Copyright © 2007 Association for Psychological Science.

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  • Postdoctoral Students

    • Katie Arnold
      • 2013 - present
    • Andrew Butler
  • PhD Students

    • Nadia M. Brashier
    • Allison C. Black-Maier
    • Hillary G Mullet
    • Sharda Umanath
  • Teaching

    • PSY 763S.01
      • Soc/Psych 127
      • M 03:05 PM-04:35 PM