Schwabe and Wolf (2010)

Rodent studies suggest that memory reconsolidating is impaired by stress. Here we examined in healthy humans the effect of stress on the reconsolidation of autobiographical memories. Participants recalled positive, negative and neutral episodes from their recent past and afterward exposed to a stressor (socially evaluated cold pressor test) or a non-arousing control condition. Additional groups of participants were exposed to the stressor without prior memory reactivation or were neither stressed nor asked to recall episodes from their past. Stress after memory reactivation impaired the memory for the neutral episodes 1 week later....

How is the group that is not stressed and not reactivated (control) act as a control for time? Or rather what does "control for time" mean?

The researchers wrote "To control for the effect of time on memory, we had another control group that was not stressed and did not reactivate experiences from their past."

I understand that the group makes a good baseline for comparing other results to, but where does time come into it?


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Zelda I have given the question an edit. This is a starting point for an acceptable question. You should further edit the question to make it a stand-alone question. I.e., (a) give a basic summary of the study as relevant to your question and (b) clearly define your question about the study. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2015 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ @faustus It was an experiment we looked at in class earlier in semester :) (which is how I came across it) but it is in fact just as stated. For my own personal development I'm looking to examine more psych experiments on stack exchange, do you have any advice for how to stop them from seeming to be homework questions?? because I want to compare my initial ideas for improving experiments to what other people suggest, so that i can develop my critical thinking. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2015 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeldaQuandt Homework questions are often extremely specific. Good questions are general and apply to many cases (e.g., cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/9414/2868 for a very short example). SE questions hang around for years and should remain useful to others after the author has moved on. There's also meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/434/2868 $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2015 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeldaQuandt people will tend to want to help you even if it is homework if you don't come across as being lazy. posting a link without full paper is not meeting people half way. why don't you do this: explain to me the major components of the experiment in short point. then explain what you think the relationship is between memory recall and: stress, rehearsal, and the passage of time. $\endgroup$
    – faustus
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @faustus : The first test in humans to see if stress after reconsolidation impairs recall at a future time. Relationship between memory recall and stress is being tested to see if there is a difference to consolidation and stress (where memory is actually enhanced) (they're expecting memory to be impaired if we go off rodent models). Passage of time - required for long term memory making. I don't see how the group that has not been tested on the first day (not even present on first day), is a control for time (author's words), when they're only being tested on day 2 (a week after day 1) $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2015 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


It appears that they tested all of the participants (control & stress) at the same time:

  • Memory was assessed 24 h after learning. According to the model by Joels and colleagues (2006), it can be predicted that learning under stress enhances memory, in particular for stress context-related information

  • Twenty-four hours after learning, participants returned to the laboratory and completed a free recall test

  • Immediately after the free recall test, participants were given a recognition test.

  • All testing took place in the morning between 8 am and 1 pm to control for the diurnal variation of the stress hormone cortisol. On day 1, participants heard a list of eight neutral words that were related to the stressor as well as eight negative, eight positive and eight neutral, stressor-unrelated words while they were exposed to stress or a control condition (for details see below). On the following day, participants returned to the laboratory and completed a free recall and a recognition test for the words they heard the day before.

I can't find anywhere within the text that says "To control for the effect of time on memory, we had another control group that was not stressed and did not reactivate experiences from their past."

They found that:

Learning under stress reduced both free recall and recognition performance 24 h after learning.

All taken from your reference:


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