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Retrieval Cue Specificity and the Realization of Delayed Intentions

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Successful performance of a delayed intention relies, in part, on recognition that a cue provides a signal for the retrieval and realization of that intention. The relative ease with which cues are recognized should influence the likelihood of successfully acting upon a delayed intention (cf. Einstein & McDaniel, 1990). We report three studies in which we manipulated ease of recognition by providing, at encoding, either the particular cues (category exemplars) that subsequently appeared during the test phase or the name of the category from which these cues were drawn-specific or general encoding instructions, respectively. Recognition of cues at test, and thus delayed intention performance, should be enhanced by the provision of specific rather than general instructions at encoding-the ''specificity effect'' identified by Einstein, McDaniel, Richardson, Guynn, and Cunfer (1995). This contrast, however, is likely to be influenced by both category-exemplar and exemplar-exemplar relations. The experiments reported here explored the influence of these relations on delayed intention performance. The results indicate the importance of the semantic relations (a) among cues and (b) between cues and the category from which they are drawn in determining the superiority of specific over general cue instructions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1996


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