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Word frequency effects in immediate serial recall: Item familiarity and item co‐occurrence have the same effect

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In immediate serial recall, high-frequency words are better recalled than low-frequency words. A prevalent interpretation of this effect suggests that, at the point of recall, degraded representations undergo a reconstruction process calling upon long-term knowledge of the to-be-remembered items. Recently, Stuart and Hulme (2000) following Deese (1960), suggested that high-frequency items are better recalled due to their better long-term associative links. Their results revealed that a familiarisation procedure involving repeated presentations of the to-be-remembered items in pairs abolished the usual frequency effect. In the experiment reported here, an alternative interpretation of this result is examined. Prior to the memory task, subjects received either no familiarisation, item familiarisation, or pair familiarisation. Both item and pair familiarisation improved the item recall of low-frequency items to the same extent, suggesting that increased familiarity can account for the co-occurrence effect.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: City University, London, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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