Prevention Education Effects on Fundamental Memory Processes

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Community Health | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion


This study evaluated effects of a key session from a nationally recognized drug abuse prevention program on basic memory processes in 211 high-risk youth in Southern California. In a randomized, between-subject design, the authors manipulated assignment to a Myth and Denial program session and the time of assessment (immediate vs. 1-week delay). The authors examined program decay effects on memory accessibility and judgment errors. Those participants exposed to the program session generated more myths and facts from the program than those in the control group, suggesting that even a single program session influenced students’ memory for program information and this was retained at least 1 week and detectable with indirect tests of memory accessibility. However, consistent with basic research perspectives, participants in the program-delayed assessment group erroneously generated more fact-related information from the session to the prompt “It is a myth that_____” than the participants in the program immediate assessment group; that is, they retained more facts as myths. These types of program effects, anticipated by basic memory theory, were not detected with a traditional judgment task in the present sample. The results suggest that basic science approaches offer a novel way of conceptually recasting prevention effects to more completely understand how these effects may operate. Implications for program evaluation and conceptualization are discussed.

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