Psychological Research

, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp 280–290 | Cite as

The item-order hypothesis reconsidered: The role of order information in free recall

  • Johannes Engelkamp
  • Petra Jahn
  • Kerstin H. Seiler
Original Article


According to the item-order approach of free recall, in pure short lists the free recall of unrelated items is organized according to their order of presentation in the study list. The approach was applied in the present study to experimenter-performed tasks (EPTs) and subject-performed tasks (SPTs). It claims that EPTs provide better serial order information than SPTs. Consequently, free recall of EPTs should be more organized along the presentation order of the items than the free recall of SPTs. In three experiments, some specific aspects of this approach were studied. Firstly, it was demonstrated that serial retrieval is not strongly used spontaneously and that its use is overestimated in the literature because it is usually evoked by an order reconstruction test which follows free recall testing. Secondly, a serial retrieval strategy in free recall can be encouraged by explicit instructions. Finally, the present experiments showed that a serial output strategy alone does not allow one to predict performance in free recall. The implications of these findings for the item-order approach will be discussed.


Free Recall Serial Recall Serial Order Order Information Item Information 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (En 124/13). We would like to thank Nicola Ferdinand, Jochen Glössner, Hedda Janssen and Annabell Saffran for their assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag  2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Engelkamp
    • 1
  • Petra Jahn
    • 1
  • Kerstin H. Seiler
    • 1
  1. 1.FR Psychologie, Saarland University, D-66123 Saarbruecken, Germany

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