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Associative Priming in Word Fragment Completion: A Dissociation Between Explicit and Implicit Retrieval Processes

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Three experiments investigated associative priming in word fragment completion. In associative priming, the study word that acts as a prime is semantically related in some way to the response word that the subject must produce or respond to at test. For example, a prime might be semantically related to the solution to its paired word fragment (e.g. study "VANILLA", solve fragment "-H-C- A-E" at test, solution is "CHOCOLATE"). Associative priming therefore differs from both repetition and conceptual priming, in which the studied primes are themselves the words that must be produced or responded to at test. In Experiment 1, associative primes were found to influence word fragment completion performance on an explicit test, but not on an implicit test. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the effects of associative primes on explicitly instructed fragment completion cannot be attributed to the specific information about cue-prime relationships that is included in the explicit instructions. Experiment 3 demonstrated that a manipulation of modality, a variable known to disrupt implicit retrieval processes, disrupts repetition priming on an explicit test, but not associative priming. The results of these three experiments suggest that whereas repetition primes are retrieved from memory by both explicit and implicit retrieval processes, associative primes are retrieved by only explicit processes. These data suggest that implicit retrieval processes are cue-dependent processes which automatically retrieve memory information that provides a good match to retrieval cues. Explicit retrieval processes are cue-independent, functioning as an intentional retrieval set to access particular categories or types of memory information.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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