List Composition and the Word-Frequency Effect for Recognition Memory

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The attention/likelihood theory (ALT; M. Glanzer & J. K. Adams, 1990) and the retrieving effectively from memory (REM) theory (R. M. Shiffrin & M. Steyvers, 1997) make different predictions concerning the effect of list composition on word recognition. The predictions were empirically tested for twoalternative forced-choice, yes–no, and ratings recognition tasks. In the current article, the authors found that discrimination of low-frequency words increased as the proportion of high-frequency words studied increased. The results disconfirm the ALT prediction that recognition is insensitive to list composition, and they disconfirm the predictions of the REM model described by R. M. Shiffrin and M. Steyvers (1997). The current authors discuss a slightly modified version of REM that can better predict our findings, and we discuss the challenges the present findings pose for ALT and REM.

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v. 28, issue 4, p. 616-630