Effects of different kinds of semantic processing on memory for words


In an incidental learning paradigm, recall and recognition memory were shown to be significantly better for words rated on pleasantness than on any of the other six semantic dimensions (concreteness, imagery, categorizability, meaningfulness, familiarity, and number of attributes) recently used for scaling of 2,854 words by Toglia and Battig (1978). Pleasantness ratings are also relatively uncorrelated with ratings on these other six dimensions, and the pattern of memory differences between these seven dimensions corresponds closely to differences in dimensional distinctiveness, as indexed by the average correlation of each dimension with the other six dimensions as reported by Toglia and Battig (1978). Word subsets with high and low mean ratings on all seven dimensions showed comparable dimensional differences in memory, but high words were both recalled and recognized better than were low words.

Reference Notes

  1. 1.

    Thieman, T. J.What’s so deep about deep processing: A critical analysis of the relation between incidental orienting tasks and retention. Unpublished manuscript, 1976.

  2. 2.

    Battig, W. F., & Weiss, K. R.Distinctiveness and elaboration of processing in recognition and recall memory. Paper presented at the Psychonomic Society meetings, Washington, D.C., November 1977.

  3. 3.

    Weiss, K. R., Packman, J. L., & Battig, W. F.Why do pleasantness ratings produce better memory than other semantic dimensions? Paper presented at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association meetings, April 1978.

  4. 4.

    Craik, F. I. M. Personal communication, February 7, 1978.


  1. Batiig, W. F., &Einstein, G. O. Evidence that broader processing facilitates delayed retention.Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 1977,10, 28–30.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Buschke, H. Two-dimensional recall: Immediate identification of clusters in episodic and semantic memory.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1977,16, 201–215.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cermak, L. S., &Craik, F. I. M. (Eds.).Levels of processing and human memory. Hillsdale, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1978.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Craik, F. I. M., &Tulving, E. Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1975,104, 268–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Fisher, R. P., &Craik, F. I. M. Interaction between encoding and retrieval operations in cued recall.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 1977,3, 701–711.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Gregg, V. Word frequency, recognition, and recall. In J. Brown (Ed.),Recall and recognition. New York: Wiley, 1976.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Jenkins, J. J. Can we have a theory of meaningful memory? In R. L. Solso (Ed.),Theories in cognitive psychology: The Loyola symposium. Potomac, Md: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Klein, K., &Saltz, E. Specifying the mechanisms in a levels-of-processing approach to memory.Journal of Expenmental Psychology. Human Learning and Memory. 1976.2. 671–679.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Kučera.H., &Francis, W. N.Computational analysis of present-day American English. Providence, R.I: Brown University Press, 1967.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Moscovitch, M., &Craik, F. I. M. Depth of processing, retrieval cues. and uniqueness of encoding as factors in recall.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1976.15, 447–458.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Paivio, A. Coding distinctions and repetition effects in memory. In. G. H. Bower (Ed.),The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 9). New York: Academic Press, 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Postman, L., &Kruesi E. The influence of orienting tasks on the encoding and recall of words.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1977,16, 353–369.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Roenker, D. L., Thompson, C. P., &Brown, S. C. A comparison of measures for the estimation of clustering In tree recall.Psychological Bulletin, 1971,76, 45–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Schulman, A. I. Memory for words recently classified.Memory & Cognition, 1974,2, 47–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Shaughnessy, J. J. Persistence of the spacing effect in free recall under varying incidental learning conditions.Memory & Cognition, 1976,4, 369–377.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Simpson, A. J., &Fitter, M. J. What is the best index of detectability.Psychological Bulletin, 1973,80, 481–488.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Toglia, M. P., &Battig, W. F.Handbook of semantic word norms. Hillsdale, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1978.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Additional information

This is Publication 79 of the Institute for the Study of Intellectual Behavior, University of Colorado, and IS based on research conducted during the first author’s undergraduate internship from Wheaton College under the direction of the second author. The research was partially supported by Grant BNS 72-02084 from the National Science Foundation.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Packman, J.L., Battig, W.F. Effects of different kinds of semantic processing on memory for words. Memory & Cognition 6, 502–508 (1978). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03198238

Download citation


  • Recognition Memory
  • Free Recall
  • Semantic Processing
  • Semantic Dimension
  • Pleasantness Rating