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Accessing the particular from the general: The power of distinctiveness in the context of organization

Abstract

Recall is inversely related to the number of items sharing a cue. The limiting case of unique cue-target relationships supports extremely high levels of recall, particularly when the cue is self-generated. This fact is incongruous with the importance assigned to the construct of organization in memory theory. Further, self-generated unique cue-target relationships tend to be idiosyncratic, implying that the power of unique cues should be limited to cases of self-cued memory. The experiments presented here suggest a role for organization that reconciles the fact of unique cue effectiveness with the importance of organization to memory. Two new findings are reported: Unique cue production enhances target encoding; and general cues can access particular encodings. The data are further tribute to the importance of simultaneous organizational and distinctive processing and recommend a new perspective on the function of organization in memory.

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Correspondence to R. Reed Hunt.

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This research was supported by a grant from NICHHD (No. HD25587). G. Craik, R. Guttentag, T. Mäntylä, D. Nelson, and D. Rubin provided constructive criticism of a previous version of the manuscript.

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Hunt, R.R., Smith, R.E. Accessing the particular from the general: The power of distinctiveness in the context of organization. Mem Cogn 24, 217–225 (1996). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03200882

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03200882

Keywords

  • Target Word
  • Free Recall
  • Target Item
  • Distinctive Processing
  • Study Task