Distinctiveness is a concept that has been invoked either directly or indirectly in nearly every major area of research in psychology. However, in no area of psychological research is the concept of distinctiveness more fully enmeshed than in the area of memory. Laboratory research on distinctiveness began early in the history of formal psychology (e.g., Calkins, 1894) and has continued steadily since. Across that research, the concept has been defined in different ways and applied to a variety of phenomena. Thus, a main objective of our volume was to bring together leading researchers in the area of distinctiveness and memory in an effort to gain insight into the similarities and differences in the application of distinctiveness as a theoretical concept. Toward this end, the present volume includes contributions from researchers doing basic research in the core areas (cognitive, neuroscience, social, and developmental) of empirical psychology.
By providing this forum for leading researchers to share their thoughts and ideas, we hope to achieve two specific goals: (1) to report recent developments in basic research investigating the relationship between distinctiveness and memory and (2) to advance theory related to distinctiveness and memory as a result of this exchange of ideas. To reach these goals, we believed that it was imperative to address the issues that have contributed to variations in the use of the term distinctivenessas a theoretical construct. A fundamental issue is the very meaning of the term. What is distinctiveness in the context of memory? Is it a description of the stimulus event or of the psychological processing of that event? Can it be both? Are terms such as distinctiveness, bizarreness, vividness, and noveltysynonymous with respect to memory? These questions—each seeking a more clear operational definition of distinctiveness—are addressed in the present volume. Additionally, we sought to address the fundamental theoretical issues that have remained unresolved despite years of research in the area: What is the mechanism of distinctiveness effects? Can a theory of distinctiveness help us understand age-related changes in memory as well as various manifestations of memory in social contexts? And a final question of considerable prior interest, what are the neural support systems for distinctiveness?
The first part of the book addresses basic theoretical matters concerning attention. Hunt's chapter discusses two uses of the term distinctiveness and the implications of the different uses. In the second chapter, Nairne continues the discussion of the meaning of the term in the context of his . . .