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Self-Reference
and Instructor Self-Disclosure:
Is Gossip Easier to Remember?

Karen Hartlep
Department of Psychology
California State University Bakersfield

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Abstract

The self-reference effect predicts that material that relates to one's self-concept will be easier to remember. Thus, students who relate class lecture material to their own experience using the pair-share technique should improve their retention of that material. Since pair-sharing is a novelty for most students, I modeled the sharing aspect by drawing examples from my own personal experiences. According to comments on student evaluations at the end of the course, students humorously regarded this self-disclosure as "gossip" about my family and friends.

I used sixteen class lectures for a California State University Bakersfield Life-Span Development course, randomly dividing the lectures into four different forms of presentation. They were planned so that eight lectures included pair-share experiences and eight did not. Eight of the same sixteen lectures also included instructor self-disclosure, and eight did not. Results indicated that lectures that included instructor self-disclosure led to better exam performance than lectures without instructor self-disclosure. However, I found no support for a student self-reference effect: Lectures that did not provide students with an opportunity to share in pairs led to better exam performance than lectures that did.


For large classes, the usual form of instruction remains the formal, traditional lecture. Students commonly complain that they can barely remember what they learn from textbooks and lectures long enough to take the exam. Instructors spend considerable time seeking ways to make course material more memorable. Ideally, they want students to understand and apply core concepts presented in their courses, rather than simply memorizing the course material by rote.

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