Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

List Blocking and Longer Retention Intervals Reveal an Influence of Gist Processing for Lexically Ambiguous Critical Lures

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

List Blocking and Longer Retention Intervals Reveal an Influence of Gist Processing for Lexically Ambiguous Critical Lures

Article excerpt

Published online: 24 June 2015

# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2015

Abstract In two experiments, we examined veridical and false memory for lists of associates from two meanings (e.g., stumble, trip, harvest, pumpkin, etc.) that converged upon a single, lexically ambiguous critical lure (e.g., fall), in order to compare the activation-monitoring and fuzzy-trace false memory accounts. In Experiment 1, we presented study lists that were blocked or alternated by meaning (within subjects), followed by a free recall test completed immediately or after a 2.5-min delay. Correct recall was greater for blocked than for alternated lists. Critical-lure false recall was greater for blocked lists on an immediate test, whereas both list types produced equivalent false recall on a delayed test. In Experiment 2, lists blocked and alternated by meaning were presented via a between-subjects design, in order to eliminate possible list-type carryover effects. Correct recall replicated the result from Experiment 1; however, blocking lists increased false recall on delayed, but not on immediate, tests. Across the experiments, clustering correct recall by meaning increased across the delay selectively for the alternated lists. Our results suggest that thematic (i.e., gist) processes are influential for false recall, especially following a delay, a pattern consistent with fuzzy-trace theory.

Keywords False memory . Lexical ambiguity . Blocking . Retention interval . ARC clustering

The notion that learned mental representations are organized on the basis of their relations to other, similar representations enjoys a rich history within cognitive psychology (Collins & Loftus, 1975;Masson,1995; Neely, 1991; see, too, Burgess & Lund, 2000, for a discussion). Information that shares a high number of associative links, occurs in similar temporal sequences, or is organized hierarchically is postulated to be grouped together within one's mental network (Anderson, 1983; Anderson & Bower, 1972;Kintsch,1974). Effects of similarity have been shown to exert a strong influence on episodic memory. For instance, free recall is greater from semantically related word lists than from unrelated word lists (Huff, Meade, & Hutchison, 2011; Hunt & Einstein, 1981; Rabinowitz, Craik, & Ackerman, 1982), and participants are likely to cluster conceptually similar items together (Bousfield, 1953;Mandler,1967; Zaromb & Roediger, 2010), even when the items are not organized by similarity at study (Cofer, 1975). Furthermore, clustering by similarity at retrieval is also found when participants study words using relational (vs. item-specific) processing tasks that facilitate an organizational structure at encoding (Hunt & Einstein, 1981; although see Huff & Bodner, 2014, for exceptions). Thus, increased processing of semantic relations through either encoding instructions or blocking the study materials by meaning increases participants' clustering of related items at recall.

Although increased processing of similarity is generally beneficial to memory, semantic relatedness can produce occasional memory errors (Underwood, 1965), such as in the powerful Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) false memory paradigm (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). Using a homograph variant of this paradigm, our study evaluated the effects of thematic similarity in correct and false recall when study lists wereblockedoralternatedbymeaningatstudy.

The DRM paradigm presents participants with study lists of associated words (e.g., bedroom, wake, pillow, etc.) that converge upon a single, nonpresented critical lure (CL; e.g., sleep) that is often falsely recalled or recognized on a later test. The DRM illusion is robust: False recall often approaches 50% (Roediger & McDermott, 1995), and false recognition has been shown to equal the hit rates for studied items (Lampinen, Neuschatz, & Payne, 1999). The illusion is also difficult to eliminate, persisting after explicit warnings (Gallo, Roberts, & Seamon, 1997; McCabe & Smith, 2002; McDermott & Roediger, 1998) and after study tasks that elicit distinctive processing (Huff, Bodner, & Fawcett, 2015;Hunt, Smith, & Dunlap, 2011;Israel&Schacter,1997). …

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