Semantic Similarity and Immediate Serial Recall: Is There a Detrimental Effect on Order Information?

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Four experiments investigated the disruptive effect of semantic similarity on short-term ordered recall. Experiments 1 and 2 contrasted immediate serial recall performance for lists of semantically similar items, drawn from the same semantic category, with performance for lists that contained items from different categories. Experiments 1 and 2 showed the usual similarity advantage for item information recall, but, contrary to expectations, there was no similarity disadvantage for the recall of order information, even when the level of item recall was controlled. Experiments 3 and 4 replicate and extend these findings by using an order reconstruction task or a limited word pool strategy, both of which yield alternate measures of order retention. These findings clearly contradict the widespread belief stating that semantic similarity hinders the short-term recall of order information. Results are discussed in the light of a retrieval-based account where the effects of semantic similarity reflect the processes called upon at recall: It is suggested that long-term knowledge is accessed to support the interpretation of degraded phonological traces.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 1999

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