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The time course of response suppression: No evidence for a gradual release from inhibition

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Most models of serial recall postulate that recalled items are suppressed and thus temporarily rendered unavailable. Response suppression can explain several results, for example the small number of erroneous repetitions and people's reluctance to report repeated items. Although it is clear that response suppression is not permanent (thus permitting renewed recall of an item on the next trial), nothing is known about its time course. We report two experiments that measured the time course of response suppression with a multiple cued-retrieval response-deadline method. Emphasis was on the extent of repetition inhibition for lists that contained a repeated item. Regardless of whether presentation was rapid (Experiment 1; 150 ms/item) or slow (Experiment 2; 500 ms/item), (a) the standard pattern of repetition inhibition and erroneous repetitions occurred and (b) repetition inhibition remained constant across increasing retrieval time. This suggests that the release from response suppression is a discrete, list-wide effect rather than a continuous, gradual wearing off. The latter conclusion is consistent with the operation of the SOB model (Farrell & Lewandowsky, 2002) but not with models that postulate complete suppression with gradual wearing off.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Western Australia, Crawley

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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