Individuals have been shown to perform suboptimally on memory measures when a third party observer (TPO) is present. The current study attempted to use adaptation to reduce the inhibitory effect of a TPO on memory performance. Undergraduate participants (N=80) were randomly assigned to one of four groups in a 2 × 2 (±adaptation period, ±observation) design in order to investigate the interaction between adaptation period and observation status. Results indicated that the adaptation period had a negligible inhibitory effect over the recall of observed participants (d=−0.11), but unexpectedly, when unobserved participants were not given an adaptation period, recall was inhibited by a sizeable degree (d=−1.11). These findings suggest that the presence of the TPO may have prevented participants from benefiting from adaptation to the general testing situation. To date, there are no known methods for eliminating the TPO effect.

Author notes

This work is based on the first author's doctoral dissertation; parts of this manuscript were presented as a poster at the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Neuropsychology, San Antonio, TX.
Cecil R. Reynolds, Ph.D. served as the guest action editor for this manuscript.