Memory & Cognition

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 348-363

The list length effect in recognition memory: an analysis of potential confounds

  • Angela KinnellAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Adelaide Email author 
  • , Simon DennisAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Ohio State University


The list length effect in recognition memory refers to the finding that recognition performance for a short list is superior to that for a long list. The list length effect is consistent with the predictions of item noise models, but context noise models predict no effect. Recently, it has been argued that if potential confounds are controlled, the list length effect is eliminated. We report the results of two experiments in which we looked at the role of attention and the remember–know task in the detection of the list length effect. We conclude that there is no list length effect when potential confounds are controlled and that it is the design used to control for attention that is most vital.


List length effect Recognition memory Memory models BCDMEM REM