Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Long-Term Conceptual Implicit Memory: A Decade of Evidence

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Long-Term Conceptual Implicit Memory: A Decade of Evidence

Article excerpt

Demonstrations of long-term implicit memory are numerous, but to date they have been reported in what might be thought of as perceptually driven tasks. In the present experiment, a low-frequency U.S. state name was presented verbally to participants within the context of a memory-course lecture, and the influence of that experience was measured indirectly 4 to 8 weeks later using a state-name-generation task. Participants were significantly more likely to generate the critical state name when it had been presented in an earlier lecture than when it had not been presented in an earlier lecture, a novel demonstration of long-term, conceptually driven priming after a single stimulus exposure.

This article presents the results of a classroom demonstration that was carried out over the course of 10 years and that has reliably produced memory effects that hold over long delays. We describe this effect here because it appears to hold a unique place in the memory literature; that is, it constitutes a unique demonstration of long-term, implicit, conceptually driven memory.

The prominence in the memory literature of the distinction between implicit and explicit memory stems from a host of well-known dissociations involving tasks that either do or do not require conscious access to a particular encoding experience (see, e.g., Jacoby & Dallas, 1981; Tulving, Schacter, & Stark, 1982). For example, Tulving et al. tested participants in both recognition and fragmentcompletion tasks following retention intervals of 1 h or 7 days. Performance in the explicit recognition memory task was much worse for the longer retention interval than for the shorter retention interval, whereas priming effects in the presumably implicit fragment-completion task were unaffected by retention interval. Such a result might therefore be argued to demonstrate that separate memory systems underlie performance on implicit- and explicit-memory tasks.

Whereas some researchers have cited such task dissociations as support for separate memory systems (for a review, see Squire, 2004), others have noted that implicit and explicit tasks often differ in the type of processing that they require (Blaxton, 1989; Roediger, 1990; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). To appreciate this alternative- processing perspective, consider that the recognition memory task could be considered both explicit and conceptually driven, in the sense that recognizing often involves the recapitulation of meaning-based encoding processes that occurred during the study phase. In contrast, the fragment-completion task can be argued to be both implicit and perceptually driven, in that perceptual processing during the test phase leads to some of the same perceptual operations that are performed during encoding of items in the study phase. From a processing perspective, it is this recapitulation of perceptual operations, at least in part, that enhances performance for old items relative to new items. In line with this alternative processing perspective, Blaxton reported a study demonstrating that it may be the perceptual-versus-conceptual processing requirements of a task, rather than the implicit-versusexplicit status of a task, that predicts task dissociations.

Although the interpretation of task dissociations remains controversial, a consequence of this theoretical debate is that tasks are now commonly classified both in terms of their explicit or implicit requirement to remember and in terms of the perceptual or conceptual nature of the cues that are driving the critical retrieval processes. Within this broad task-classification scheme, there are many examples of long-term, implicit, perceptually driven memory effects (Cave, 1997; Kolers, 1976; Mitchell, 2006; Tulving et al., 1982), whereas long-term, implicit, conceptually driven memory effects are conspicuously absent from the literature. Although Zeelenberg and Pecher (2003) reported a conceptual cross-language priming effect in which there were an average of 65 intervening items between study and test for a particular target item, the time delay between study and test (not reported) appears to have been on the order of minutes. …

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