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Adaptive memory: Animacy effects persist in paired-associate learning

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Recent evidence suggests that animate stimuli are remembered better than matched inanimate stimuli. Two experiments tested whether this animacy effect persists in paired-associate learning of foreign words. Experiment 1 randomly paired Swahili words with matched animate and inanimate English words. Participants were told simply to learn the English “translations” for a later test. Replicating earlier findings using free recall, a strong animacy advantage was found in this cued-recall task. Concerned that the effect might be due to enhanced accessibility of the individual responses (e.g., animates represent a more accessible category), Experiment 2 selected animate and inanimate English words from two more constrained categories (four-legged animals and furniture). Once again, an advantage was found for pairs using animate targets. These results argue against organisational accounts of the animacy effect and potentially have implications for foreign language vocabulary learning.
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Keywords: Animacy; Foreign language learning; Memory; Paired-associate learning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Publication date: July 4, 2015

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