Is learning with elaborative interrogation less desirable when learners are depleted?

Kühl, Tim; Bertrams, Alex (2019). Is learning with elaborative interrogation less desirable when learners are depleted? Frontiers in psychology, 10(707), pp. 1-11. Frontiers Research Foundation 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00707

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When learning with elaborative interrogation, learners are requested by means of prompts to generate parts of the study material. There is evidence, that learning with elaborative interrogation is beneficial. However, it is conceivable that for elaborative interrogation to be beneficial for learning, learners also need resources available to be able to correctly generate parts of the study material. In this connection, one potentially important factor for successfully carrying out such effortful analytic processes, like generating information, is cognitive self-control. However, self-control seems to be a limited resource that can be depleted. Hence, under conditions of depleted self-regulatory resources (ego depletion), elaborative interrogation might lead to an incomplete generation of the requested information, resulting in incomplete study material. Thus, elaborative interrogation may be only beneficial under nondepleted conditions, but disadvantageous under depleted conditions. To investigate this, 97 persons were randomly assigned to one of four conditions resulting from a 2 × 2 between-subjects design with the independent variables ego depletion (yes vs. no) and learning condition (elaborative interrogation vs. control). Ego depletion was manipulated with a writing task: Participants were instructed to transcribe a text on a blank sheet, but only participants in the depletion condition were instructed to omit the letters e and n wherever they would normally appear in their writing. For the elaborative interrogation condition, some segments of the regular text were removed and prompts asking for that particular information were provided. For the control condition, the regular text was provided while no prompts were given. The main dependent variables were the learning outcome measures of a retention test and a transfer test. 2 × 2-ANCOVAs showed no effects of ego depletion, no effects of learning condition and no interaction between ego depletion and learning condition – neither for retention nor for transfer. The concept of ego depletion is recently discussed controversy and these results do contribute to the skeptical view that queries the impact of the concept of ego depletion – at least for cognitive tasks. Moreover, these results question whether elaborative interrogation are also desirable when assessing learning outcomes by means of retention and transfer tests.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Education > Educational Psychology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Education

UniBE Contributor:

Bertrams, Alexander Gregor


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 370 Education
100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




Frontiers Research Foundation




Alexander Gregor Bertrams-Pencik

Date Deposited:

04 Dec 2019 12:20

Last Modified:

04 Dec 2019 15:21

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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