The role of rehearsal and reminding in the recall of categorized word lists


Ward, G. and Tan, L. 2023. The role of rehearsal and reminding in the recall of categorized word lists. Cognitive Psychology. 143 (Art. 101563).
AuthorsWard, G. and Tan, L.

Most theories of free recall emphasize the importance of retrieval in explaining temporal and semantic regularities in recall; rehearsal mechanisms are often absent or limit rehearsal to a subset of what was last rehearsed. However, in three experiments using the overt rehearsal method, we show clear evidence that just-presented items act as retrieval cues during encoding (study-phase retrieval) with prior related items rehearsed despite well over a dozen intervening items. Experiment 1 examined free recall of categorized and uncategorized lists of 32 words. In Experiments 2 and 3, we presented categorized lists of 24, 48, and 64 words for free recall or cued recall, with the category exemplars blocked in successive list positions (Experiment 2) or randomized throughout the list (Experiment 3). The probability of rehearsing a prior word was affected by its semantic similarity to the just-presented item, and the frequency and recency of its prior rehearsals. These rehearsal data suggest alternative interpretations to well-known recall phenomena. With randomized designs, the serial position curves were reinterpreted by when words were last rehearsed (which contributed to the list length effects), and semantic clustering and temporal contiguity effects at output were reinterpreted by whether words were co-rehearsed during study. The contrast with the blocked designs suggests that recall is sensitive to the relative (not absolute) recency of targeted list items. We discuss the benefits of incorporating rehearsal machinery into computational models of episodic memory, and suggest that the same retrieval processes that generate the recalls are used to generate the rehearsals.

JournalCognitive Psychology
Journal citation143 (Art. 101563)
ISSN 0010-0285
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Publication dates
Online02 May 2023
Print02 May 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted25 Mar 2023
Deposited09 May 2023
FunderEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Copyright holder© 2023, The Author(s)
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