Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Generality of a Congruity Effect in Judgements of Relative Order

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Generality of a Congruity Effect in Judgements of Relative Order

Article excerpt

Published online: 26 July 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract The judgement of relative order (JOR) procedure is used to investigate serial-order memory. Measuring response times, the wording of the instructions (whether the earlier or the later item was designated as the target) reversed the direction of search in subspan lists (Chan, Ross, Earle, & Caplan Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16(5), 945-951, 2009). If a similar congruity effect applied to above-span lists and, furthermore, with error rate as the measure, this could suggest how to model order memory across scales. Participants performed JORs on lists of nouns (Experiment 1:list lengths = 4, 6, 8, 10) or consonants (Experiment 2:listlengths = 4, 8). In addition to the usual distance, primacy, and recency effects, instructions interacted with serial position of the later probe in both experiments, not only in response time, but also in error rate, suggesting that availability, not just accessibility, is affected by instructions. The congruity effect challenges current memory models. We fitted Hacker's(Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 6(6), 651-675, 1980) self-terminating search model to our data and found that a switch in search direction could explain the congruity effect for short lists, but not longer lists. This suggests that JORs may need to be understood via direct-access models, adapted to produce a congruity effect, or a mix of mechanisms.

Keywords Memory for order . Serial position effects . Memory models . Congruity effect

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


In remembering everyday information, such as a telephone number, a route, or a sequence of events, order is central (Lashley, 1951). A relatively simple test of memory for order is the judgement of relative order (JOR) procedure (Butters, Kaszniak, Glisky, Eslinger, & Shacter, 1994; Chan, Ross, Earle, & Caplan, 2009;Fozard,1970; Hacker, 1980; Hockley, 1984; Hurst & Volpe, 1982; Klein, Shiffrin, & Criss, 2007; McElree & Dosher, 1993;Milner,1971;Muter,1979;Naveh- Benjamin, 1990; Wolff, 1966;Yntema&Trask,1963). Illus- trated in Fig. 1, the JOR procedure tests memory for relative order without requiring participants to produce the items from memory. The wording of a JOR question typically takes a form like, "Which of two people left the party more recently?" A logically equivalent form of this question could be "Which of two people left the party earlier?" Because, formally, all that has changed is that the target became the nontarget and vice versa, one might presume that these "earlier" and "later" instructions test the same information in memory. Perhaps this is why few studies have compared these instructions. The vast majority have used a recency instruction-hence, the term, judgement of relative recency (the origin of the acronym, JOR). However, instructions do influence JOR performance on both supra- and subspan lists. Flexser and Bower (1974) found that their distant instruction had worse overall accuracy than their recency instruction. More specifically, Chan et al. (2009) found that participants' behavior on subspan lists resembled backward, self-terminating search for a later in- struction, consistent with previous findings (Hacker, 1980; Muter, 1979), but forward, self-terminating search for an earlier instruction. Here, we ask whether this congruity effect is confined to subspan lists or generalizes to longer, supraspan lists.

Figure 2c illustrates how hypothetical response time data would look for a forward, self-terminating search strategy. The vertical axis plots the behavioral measure; for illustration purposes, we label it "error rate" or "response time," because speed-accuracy trade-offs notwithstanding (and we found none in our data), one would expect response time and error rates to vary in the same direction as one another. The left horizontal axis plots the serial position of the earlier probe item, and the right horizontal axis plots the serial position of the later probe item. …

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