Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Three More Semantic Serial Position Functions and a SIMPLE Explanation

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Three More Semantic Serial Position Functions and a SIMPLE Explanation

Article excerpt

Abstract There are innumerable demonstrations of serial position functions-with characteristic primacy and recency effects-in episodic tasks, but there are only a handful of such demonstrations in semantic memory tasks, and those demonstrations have used only two types of stimuli. Here, we provide three more examples of serial position functions when recalling from semantic memory. Participants were asked to reconstruct the order of (1) two cartoon theme song lyrics, (2) the seven Harry Potter books, and (3) two sets of movies, and all three demonstrations yielded conventionallooking serial position functions with primacy and recency effects. The data were well-fit by SIMPLE, a local distinctiveness model of memory that was originally designed to account for serial position effects in short- and long-term episodic memory. According to SIMPLE, serial position functions in both episodic and semantic memory tasks arise from the same type of processing: Items that are more separated from their close neighbors in psychological space at the time of recall will be better remembered. We argue that currently available evidence suggests that serial position functions observed when recalling items that are presumably in semantic memory arise because of the same processes as those observed when recalling items that are presumably in episodic memory.

Keywords Memory . Memory models . Semantic memory . Serial position effects

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

In many episodic memory tasks, participants are given a list of to-be-remembered items and are asked to recall the items. A ubiquitous finding is that participants produce a bowshaped serial position function in which they remember the first few items in the series well (the primacy effect) and the last few items in the series well (the recency effect) but have poorer memory for mid-series items. This ∪-shaped function has been observed for lists that span milliseconds to weeks (Neath & Brown, 2006) and has even been noted when opera performances attended over a 25-year period have been recalled (Sehulster, 1989). Therefore, serial position functions have been observed in all kinds of episodic memory tasks, including those thought to tap sensory memory, working memory, short-term memory, long-term memory, and autobiographical memory. In tasks thought to tap semantic memory, however, there are only a handful of examples, and these comprise only two types of stimuli: political figures and lyrics. In this article, we provide three additional demonstrations of semantic serial position functions and consider whether there exists a common explanation for such functions regardless of the time scale or the hypothetical underlying memory system.

Many theorists argue that memory consists of a number of different memory systems, each of which operates according to different rules (e.g., Schacter, Wagner, & Buckner, 2000; Wang & Morris, 2010). One well-accepted distinction is between episodic and semantic memory (Tulving, 1972, 1983). Although these two systems are thought to differ in a number of important respects, one key distinction is whether the rememberer is aware of the learning episode. For example, most people know that George Washington was the first president of the United States, but they are unaware of when they learned this and are unaware of any other details from the learning episode. In contrast, when people recall a list of words immediately after hearing them, they are fully aware of the episode in which the target items were experienced. In contrast to semantic memory, then, "episodic memory affords the additional capability of acquisition and retention of knowledge about personally experienced events and their temporal relations in subjective time and the ability to mentally 'travel back' in time" (Tulving, 1985, p. 387). Despite the differences between the two systems, however, when people are asked to recall the presidents of the United States (presumably tapping semantic memory), one observes a conventional-looking u-shaped serial position function just like when people are asked to recall the list of words they have just heard (Roediger & Crowder, 1976). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.