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Surface form and the spacing effect

Abstract

Deficient processing theories of the spacing effect attribute poor recall of massed-repeated items to a failure to process one or both of the presentations fully. An implication of this approach is that anything that increases the probability that a repetition will receive full processing, or conversely, anything that decreases the probability that the item will be recognized as a repetition, should improve memorability of the item. The present set of experiments tested this prediction by manipulating the surface structure of repeated sentences. On the basis of previous research, it was assumed that memory for surface structure of sentences decays rapidly, and hence can contribute to initial identification of repetitions only at short spacings. Because this manipulation should hinder recognition of repetitions as repetitions, it was expected to induce full processing of massed repetitions, and thus facilitate recall of these items. This prediction was supported. When sentences were repeated verbatim (Experiment 1) or by the same speaker (Experiment 2), the typical spacing effect was obtained. However, when the surface structure or speaker changed at time of repetition, massed repetitions were recalled nearly as well (Experiment 1) or as well (Experiment 2) as their spaced counterparts.

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Correspondence to Denise Dellarosa.

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This article is Publication No. 140 from the Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado. The research was supported by a grant from the Martin Marietta Corporation

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Dellarosa, D., Bourne, L.E. Surface form and the spacing effect. Memory & Cognition 13, 529–537 (1985). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03198324

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Keywords

  • Free Recall
  • Verbal Learn
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Spacing Effect
  • Repetition Type