Memory & Cognition

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 689–699

The temporal contiguity effect predicts episodic memory performance


    • Department of PsychologyOhio State University
  • Jonathan F. Miller
    • University of Pennsylvania
  • Marc W. Howard
    • Syracuse University
  • Michael J. Kahana
    • University of Pennsylvania

DOI: 10.3758/MC.38.6.689

Cite this article as:
B. Sederberg, P., F. Miller, J., W. Howard, M. et al. Memory & Cognition (2010) 38: 689. doi:10.3758/MC.38.6.689


One way to study the associative processes at work during episodic memory is to examine the order of participant responses, which reveal the strong tendency to transition between temporally contiguous or semantically proximal items on the study list. Here, we assessed the correlation between participants’ recall performance and their use of semantic and temporal associations to guide retrieval across nine delayed free recall studies. The size of the participants’ temporal contiguity effects predicted their recall performance. When interpreted in terms of two models of episodic memory, these results suggest that participants who more effectively form and retrieve associations between items that occur nearby in time perform better on episodic recall tasks. Sample code may be downloaded as a supplement for this article from supplemental.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010