Psychological Research

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 68–75 | Cite as

Position effects in chunked linear orders

  • Rüdiger F. Pohl


When someone is asked which of two items from a linearly ordered set of items comes first in that order, reaction time decreases with increasing distance between the two items in the given order. This is known as thedistance effect, a very robust finding in studies on linear orders. Surprisingly, investigations onchunked linear orders show unexpected diverse results. For example, reaction times todifferent probes (i. e., probes with items from different chunks) are sometimes longer than those tosame probes (i. e., probes with items from the same chunk). But if subjects' latency depends on the discriminability of chunk labels vs. exact position information within a chunk,different probes should always yield faster order judgments thansame probes. Two experiments investigated whether position effects, including both end-of-list and end-ofchunk effects, can account for the unexpected finding that between-chunk probes are sometimes answered more slowly than within-chunk probes. Moreover, the linea-rorder paradigm was extended to complex action sequences with more than two chunks, using original cooking recipes as materials. The results showed thatchunk-position effects play a crucial role in comparative judgments. Probes from the first and the last chunk were answered faster than those from a middle chunk.Border items (i. e., items next to a chunk boundary) did not produce a significant effect. However, chunking affected subjects' reaction time, as was indicated by the absence of a distance effect fordifferent probes. Besides, action sequences that are ordered in time, as well as concept lists used previously, can be considered linear orders, thus supporting the view that linear orders reflect a basic representation schema of human memory.


Reaction Time Linear Order Basic Representation Action Sequence Complex Action 
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.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rüdiger F. Pohl
    • 1
  1. 1.FB 1 - PsychologieUniversität TrierTrierGermany

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