Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Visual Specificity Effects on Word Stem Completion: Beyond Transfer Appropriate Processing?

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Visual Specificity Effects on Word Stem Completion: Beyond Transfer Appropriate Processing?

Article excerpt

Abstract An important, but poorly understood, aspect of memory retrieval concerns the conditions under which priming is influenced by perceptual changes in the form of target items. According to transfer appropriate processing perspectives, perceptual specificity effects on priming require a study task that focuses attention on the perceptual, rather than semantic, features of the items. Other research suggests that perceptual specificity effects are enhanced by conditions yielding high levels of explicit memory. The present experiments manipulated encoding tasks and other variables known to influence explicit memory (repetition and retention interval) in order to gain insight into the determinants of perceptual specificity effects on visual word - stem completion. In Experiment 1 we found that perceptual specificity (letter case) effects on stem completion priming depend on perceptual encoding when subjects' awareness of the study - test relationship is limited. In Experiments 2 - 4 we found that perceptual specificity effects can be obtained after semantic encoding - especially when the study - test retention interval is short. Perceptual specificity effects after short retention intervals were independent of encoding task, and may reflect a form of involuntary explicit memory.

Numerous studies have established that priming effects on such implicit memory tests as stem completion, fragment completion, word identification, and lexical decision are largely modality specific, are rarely affected by depth of encoding manipulations (but see Brown & Mitchell, 1994; Challis & Brodbeck, 1992), and are typically preserved in patients with organic amnesia. By contrast, performance on standard explicit memory tests is largely modality nonspecific, is greatly affected by depth of encoding, and is profoundly impaired in amnesic patients (for reviews, see Richardson - Klavehn & Bjork, 1988; Roediger & McDermott, 1993; Schacter, 1987; Schacter, Chiu, & Ochsner, 1993; Shimamura, 1986).

An important but as yet poorly understood aspect of memory retrieval concerns the extent to which, and conditions under which, it is influenced by changing the exact perceptual form of target stimuli. Numerous studies have found that priming is reduced by changing the stimulus modality (e.g., visual vs. auditory) from study to test (for a review see, Roediger & McDermott, 1993). Other studies testing within - modality manipulation of specific perceptual features have yielded a wide range of outcomes. Within the domain of visual word priming, some experiments have yielded evidence that priming effects are larger when the typefont or case (i.e., upper or lower) of target items is the same at study and test than when it is changed (e.g., Blaxton, 1989; Jacoby & Hayman, 1987; Roediger & Blaxton, 1987). Other experiments, however, have not obtained such effects (cf. Carr, Brown, & Charalambous, 1989; Rajaram & Roediger, 1993; Scarborough, Cortese, & Scarborough, 1977). For example, Rajaram and Roediger (1993) failed to observe significant effects of changing the typefont of target items between study and test on stem completion, fragment completion, anagram solution, and word identification tasks, even though performance on these tests was significantly higher after visual than auditory presentation.

Additional studies have shown that, within the same experiment, form - specific priming effects may be observed under some conditions but not others. For example, form - specific priming occurs following study of unusual or highly distinctive typefonts or handwriting, but not after study of typical typefonts (Brown & Carr, 1993; Graf & Ryan, 1990). Marsolek, Kosslyn, and Squire (1992) found that form - specific priming occurs when test items are presented in the left visual field but not in the right visual field. Of particular relevance to the present experiments, Graf and Ryan (1990) found that word identification priming was reduced by a study - test change in typefont only when subjects rated the readability of words during study, but not when they rated how much they liked each word. …

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