Why do participants initiate free recall of short lists of words with the first list item? Toward a general episodic memory explanation
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
American Psychological Association
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Spurgeon, J., Ward, G., & Skylark, W. (2014). Why do participants initiate free recall of short lists of words with the first list item? Toward a general episodic memory explanation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition, 40 1551-1567. https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000028
Participants who are presented with a short list of words for immediate free recall (IFR) show a strong tendency to initiate their recall with the first list item and then proceed in forward serial order. We report two experiments that examined whether this tendency was underpinned by a short-term memory store, of the type that is argued by some to underpin recency effects in IFR. In Experiment 1, we presented three groups of participants with lists of between 2 and 12 words for IFR, delayed free recall (DFR), and continuous-distractor free recall (CDFR). The to-be-remembered words were simultaneously spoken and presented visually, and the distractor task involved silently solving a series of self-paced, visually-presented mathematical equations (e.g., “3+2+4=?”). The tendency to initiate recall at the start of short lists was greatest in IFR, but was also present in the two other recall conditions. This finding was replicated in Experiment 2, where the to-be-remembered items were presented visually in silence and the participants spoke aloud their answers to computer-paced mathematical equations. Our results necessitate that a short-term buffer cannot be fully responsible for the tendency to initiate recall from the beginning of a short list, but rather suggest that the tendency represents a general property of episodic memory that occurs across a range of timescales.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000028
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/246393