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The influence of advanced outlines on the free recall of prose


This study examined how the free recall of prose is affected by (1) outlines as advanced organizers, (2) preexperimental familiarity with the material, and (3) text genre, that is, narrative vs. expository prose. College students studied a two-level outline, a one-level outline, or no outline before listening to 400- to 500-word passages that varied in familiarity and narrativity. Subjects later recalled the passages and then generated their own subjective outline of each passage. Overall, the outline manipulation did not significantly influence recall. However, significant negative correlations were found between the amount recalled and the degree of subjective-experimental outline correspondence. These outcomes are discussed in the context of interference theory, a depth-of-processing framework, and an automatic comprehension hypothesis. Whereas familiarity had no significant effect on recall, text genre had a robust effect. Less information was recalled from expository passages than from narrative passages.


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Correspondence to Andrew D. Cohen.

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Cohen, A.D., Graesser, A.C. The influence of advanced outlines on the free recall of prose. Bull. Psychon. Soc. 15, 348–350 (1980).

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  • Free Recall
  • Experimental Outline
  • Advanced Organizer
  • Prose
  • Interference Theory