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The Effect of Environmental Context on Recall and Category Clustering Scores Following Relational and Individual Item Processing: A Test of the Outshining Hypothesis

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This study investigated the effects of the reinstatement of environmental context on recall of a list of words after subjects had performed either relational processing or individual item processing on them at encoding (cf Einstein & Hunt, 1980). In the first experiment, subjects showed significantly less semantic category clustering when environmental cues were available to them at recall. This effect occurred regardless of encoding task, and suggests that subjects in the same context condition were using environmental cues to help them recall words from the list. Nevertheless, there was no effect of contextual reinstatement on the number of words recalled in either encoding condition. In Experiment 2, a list of words with a much less obvious categorical structure was used, which eliminated category clustering following individual item processing. Despite this, no beneficial effect of contextual reinstatement was seen on the number of words recalled by subjects who performed either the individual item or the relational processing task. In the relational processing group, contextual reinstatement once again significantly reduced the category clustering scores. The results of both experiments indicate that there are effects of contextual reinstatement on memory that are not necessarily apparent when overall level of recall is the dependent variable.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1996

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