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University of Stirling



Levels of processing and retrieval: recency effects after incidental learning in a reaction time task

Mayes JT & McIvor G (1980) Levels of processing and retrieval: recency effects after incidental learning in a reaction time task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32 (4), pp. 635-648.

In their development of the levels-of-processing approach to memory Craik and Jacoby (1975) proposed a dual-process theory of retrieval which involves both the scanning of recent episodic memory and a process of reconstruction in semantic memory. The theory predicts that a depth of processing effect will emerge only when the latter retrieval process is employed. Two experiments tested this prediction under the "conveyor-belt" assumption that scanning will be adopted for recent items while earlier items must be retrieved by reconstruction. An incidental-learning paradigm was employed, in which subjects performed an orienting reaction-time task on a sequence of word-pairs. Each word-pair was judged at either a semantic, phonemic or (in Experiment I) orthographic level of coding. In the first experiment half the subjects subsequently attempted free recall while half performed a recognition task; in the second experiment subjects were cued for recall in the last six serial positions, followed by free recall of the remaining items. A consistent "levels" effect emerged in both recall and recognition and this was particularly clearly observed in recency positions. A significant difference also emerged between positive and negative judgements. Although it is argued that these effects might emerge even in scanning it is concluded that these experiments provide no support for the proposal of two distinct retrieval modes.

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Volume 32, Issue 4

Author(s)Mayes, J Terence; McIvor, Gill
Publication date31/12/1980
PublisherTaylor and Francis
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