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Jommd of ExperimentalPsychology

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2000, Vol.26, No. 3, 796-802

Memory, Cognition and

Copyright 2000 by the American PsychologicalAssociation,Inc. 0278-7393/00/$5.00 DOI: I0.I0371/0278-7393.26.3.796

OBSERVATION

The Effects of Word Co-Occurrence on Short-Term Memory: Associative Links in Long-Term Memory Affect Short-Term Memory Performance
George Smart and Charles Hulme Universityof York
In immediate serial recall tasks, high-frequency words are recalled better than low-frequency words. This has been attributed to high-frequency words' being better represented and providing more effective support to a redintegration process at retrieval (C. Hulme et al., 1997). In studies of free recall, there is evidence that frequency of word co-occurrence, rather than word frequency per se, may explain the recall advantage enjoyed by high-frequency words (J. Deese, 1960). The authors present evidence that preexposing pairs of low-frequency words, so as to create associative links between them, has substantial beneficial effects on immediate serial recall performance. These benefits, which are not attributable to simple familiarization with the words per se, do not occur for high-frequency words. These findings indicate that associative links between items in long-term memory have important effects on short-term memory performance and suggest that the effects of word frequency in short-term memory tasks are related to differences in interitern associations in long-term memory.

In this article, we offer empirical support for a fundamental change in the way in which word fiequency effects in shcttqetm memory tasks are interpreted. In particular, we show that a ~ i a f i t m s b~weea lexical mpres~tafions stored in longterm memory influence short-term memory performance.

Repetition Effects
Since Ebbinghaus (1885/1964), the study of simple repetition effects has shown that repeated list items tend to be better recalled than nonrepeated list items. More recently, item repetition has been studied in the context of the spacing effect (Russo, Parkin, Taylor, & Wilks, 1998); the relevant finding was that items repeated at nonadjacent positions in a list are better recalled than items presented only once in a list (see also Crowder, 1976, for a comprehensive review of repetition effects). The repetition of whole lists can also lead to an improvement in recall performance as demonstrated in the Hebb effect (Hebb, 1961). Here, participants are pre-

sented with a series of nine-digit strings followed by immediate serial recall. One of these strings is repeated on every third trial, although participants are not informed of this. Although recall performance for the repeated digit string improves over trials, performance for the nonrepeated strings remains relatively stable. According to Hebb 0961), a momentary encounter with a set of stimuli presented in a particular order will leave a permanent record in secondary memory. More recently, the Hebb effect has been productively explored within and applied to the implicit serial learning paradigm (Curran & Keele, 1993; Stadler, 1993).

Word FrequencyEffects
Perhaps the most studied of all repetition phenomena is the word frequency effect. Traditional measures of word frequency offer an estimate of how often the word is encountered in either written or spoken language (Baayen, Piepenbrock, & Van Rijn, 1993; Ku~era & Francis, 1967). The common finding, across a wide range of experiments, is that high-frequency words are better recalled than lowfrequency words (see Gregg, 1976, for a review). We (Hulme, Maughan, & Brown, 1991; Hulme et al., 1997) have interpreted such word frequency effects as evidence for a contribution of long-term memory mechanisms to shortterm memory performance. More specifically, we have suggested that phonological information stored in long-term memory is used to "clean up" or redintegrate the degraded short-term memory trace and that the availability of a phonological trace in long-term memory is greater for highthan low-frequency words (Hulme et al., 1997). However, the finding that the typical recall advantage for highfrequency words is eliminated when high- and low796

George Smart and Charles Hulme, Department of Psychology, University of York, York, United Kingdom. This research was supported by Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom Grant R 000 236 216. George Stuart is now at the Department of Psychology, University of East London, London, United Kingdom. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Charles Hulme, Deparunent of Psychology, University of York, York, YO1 5DD, United Kingdom, or to George Stuart, Department of Psychology, University of East London, Romford Road, London, El5 4LZ United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to chl @york.ac.uk or to g.p.stuart@uel.ac.uk.

wall. rash. had higher interitem association ratings than low-frequency words. club. hall. the difference between high. each containing six words. which for unfamiliarized groups was the start of the experiment and for familiarized groups was stage two of the experiment. 3-1. farm. book. lay behind the word frequency effect in free recall. shun. while altemaling lists began either with a word from Set A or from Set B (Alternating AB or Alternating BA). Each word pair was followed by a 1-s interpair interval during which the screen remained blank. we could assess the extent to which the recall benefits produced by familiarization with item pairs are capable of accounting for the advantage in recall shown by high. we developed a technique in which interitem associations between words are created by repeated exposure prior to the recall task. 1960) in the context of studies of long-term memory. By including control conditions in which subjects recalled the same highand low-frequency words without any prior familiarization. lists were all drawn from the set of 12 high-frequency words. a general description will follow. In two of the groups. participants were required to read aloud a series of word pairs presented visually (in upper-case 36-point Geneva font) on a computer monitor while their utterances were recorded. For participants in the unfamifiarized conditions. I t e m C o . prediction was that the creation of interitem associations in this way would have a greater beneficial effect on the recall of low-frequency words than high-frequency words. Participants were presented with 40 lists to recall. although there was no familiarization with these sets.and low-frequency word lists in a free recall task was eliminated.). step. It was this suggestion that provided the impetus for the present experiment. To do this in as direct a way as possible. Materials and Design Two sets of 12 one-syllable words were selected on the basis of Kufera and Francis's (1967) word frequency counts. The other set comprised high-frequency words with an occurrence of at least 100 words per million (food. This follows from the suggestion (Deese. perk. and each word remained on the screen for 500 ms. on average. jest. Because the procedures for participants in both familiarization groups were identical. Lists were presented visually in the same format as in the familiarization phase. All words were exhaustively combined within each set to form two blocks of 30 unique ordered pairs (e. we would improve short-term memory performance for those items. We predicted that by creating interitem associations between items in long-term memory. Howes. to variations in interitem associations. participants recalled items from the set of 12 low-frequency words only. land. Presentation of the 30 word pairs formed from Set A was followed by presentation of the 30 word pairs formed from Set B. Method 797 Participants A total of 88 undergraduates (79 female and 9 male) from the University of York participated in the experiment. For each participant. Deese (1960) concluded that "This implies that there is little or no intrinsic effect of frequency of usage upon recall and that the covariation of recall scores with frequency of usage occurs because of the higher probability of association occurring between high-frequency words" (p. He found that high-frequency words. 342). the items were divided into two sets in the way described earlier. smog. A further.g. One set comprised low-frequency words with an occurrence of I word per million (gild. these findings from studies of mixed lists suggest that the inter-relationships between fist items may be critical in determining recall performance. Instead. town. One of the groups receiving high-frequency words and one of the groups receiving low-frequency words also received a familiarizalion phase in which items from the relevant set were presented to them in pairs. & Norton. back. Words in each pair were presented contiguously. Each page of the booklet had the numbers 1 to 6 in a column on the left-hand side indicating the order of presentation. He suggested that the frequency of word co-occurrence.over low-frequency words. more tentative. 1960. as opposed to the long-term free recall tasks studied by Deese. date. Procedure Participants were randomly assigned to one of four participant groups. when items were selected to form lists with a zero index of interitem association. sham. 1-2. Such a pattern of findings would provide direct evidence that interitem associations in longterm memory are a determinant of immediate serial recall performance and that word frequency effects are due. rift. Participants recalled each list by writing the words in order on one page of a response booklet. but with a presentation rate of one word per second and a 500-ms interstimulus interval (ISI). and participants were required to draw a line to indicate when they could not recall a word in a particular position. The 40 experimental lists comprised 10 lists of four types. weed).O c c u r r e n c e Effects An alternative view of the mechanisms underlying the word frequency effect has been proposed by Deese (1959. Each trial was initiated by the participant's pressing the computer mouse button. kite. the 12 experimental words were divided randomly into two equal sets (Set A and Set B). In the present experiment.. cube.OBSERVA~ON frequency words are mixed within the same list (May. 1979. All participants undertook the serial recall task. etc. at least in part. we wished to explore the possible importance of interitem associations in short-term immediate serial recall tasks. pram. DeLosh & McDauiel. words presented in pure fists were entirely from Set A or Set B ~ A and Pure B). In the familiarization phase. w~fe). 2-1. 1-3. The order of trials was randomized for each participant. Deese derived an index of mean interitem association for lists of randomly selected words by obtaining free-association norms for the words within each list. Furthermore. 1996) suggests that word frequency is exerting effects that are not operating entirely at the level of individual items. A strict serial recall protocol was enforced by ensuring that participants wrote their . rather than the frequency of occurrence of the words themselves. 1957) that high-frequency words have stronger interitem associations than low-freqnency words (because high-frequency words are more likely to co-ocour in natural language than are low-frequency words). This procedure was repeated until the participants had read aloud each of the 60 ordered word pairs 10 times. Cuddy. while in the other two groups.

4 A. M S E = . However..6 0. M S E -. F(5.41. 42) = .-o. F(I. No other effects in this analysis were significant.0 se. 42) = 1... M S E = .I=amlliarlzedPure Familiarized Altes'naUng Unfamllladzed Pure Unfamlliartzed N t ~ n g .35.. F(1. For high-frequency words. respectively. The critical three-way interaction between list type. ns.~'~g 0. 84) = 12.70. 420) = 113. M S E = .Q. word frequency and familiarization was further explored by performing three-way (2 × 2 × 6) ANOVAs on the highand low-frequency word data separately. there was a significant interaction between list type and familiarization.~ ".6 0.9% correct) were better recalled than low-frequency words (59.014.58.8 0. For each participant group.8 ~ ~ ~. F(1.91. F(1. M S E = .and low-frequency words as a function of familiarization and list type. The data in Figure 1 were first entered into a 2 × 2 × 2 × 6 analysis of variance (A_NOVA) with word frequency (high vs.frequency words 1.2 I 4 5 6 0. ns.014. M S E = .014. word frequency and familiarization. 84) -. F(5. By contrast.0 0. M S E -.. 210) = 73.75. Neither the effect of list type nor familiarization was significant. 1997). F(1.326.4 0.0 5 6 i 1 2 3 Sedal Position 4 1 2 3 Sedal Potion Figure 1.20. Hulme et al. showing that the co-occurrence effect occurred with familiarized fists but not with unfamiliarized lists. and list type (pure vs.. M S E = ... F(1.2..7. M S E = .17. 42) = 14.4% correct).049. indicating that high-frequency woods (68. 42) = . as were data from the two pure list conditions.014 and F(1.. 84) -.82. M S E = .09. showing that pure lists were recalled significantly better than alternating lists. Figure I shows the proportion of items correctly recalled in each serial position for the pure and alternating lists. The main effect of familiarization was not significant. ---~-.014. Results Responses were scored as correct when the correct item was recalled in the correct serial position. Spoken recall of high.¢.a----0-- ~ ~rna~ng UnfamCWtzed Pure ~ .8% correct). • M S E = . .254. 0. M S E = .50. nor did these two factors interact. I ¢:1~.2 : --'.4% correct) were better recalled than alternating lists (62. 210) = 49. list type. ns. but not for the high-frequency words.. 84) = . the only significant effect was that of serial position F(5.040. which reflects the fact that recall declines across serial positions somewhat more steeply for low-frequency than for high-frequency words (cf. unfamiliarized) as between-subjects variables."° 0. Thus familiarization. F(1.. This analysis revealed significant main effects of word frequency. reflecting the fact that pure lists (65. M S E = . low) and familiarization (familiarized vs. From Figure 1 it can be seen that this interaction reflects the fact that an increase in recall for the pure lists after familiarization occurs for low-frequency words. F(5. 84) -.031.. 84) = 5.326. nor was the interaction between word frequency and familiarization. and serial position. and most critically there was also a significant three-way interaction between list type.0 i | • 0. data from the two alternating list conditions were combined.. collapsed across lists and participants. F(1. 420) = 2. There was also a significant interaction between word frequency and serial position. in the four participant groups: Performance in the high-frequency conditions is plotted in Panel 1 and for the low-frequency conditions in Panel 2.798 OBSERVATION answers in the order of presentation and did not return to any unanswered items.05 was applied to all statistical tests unless otherwise stated..93. and list type.016. .12. F(1. alternating) and serial position (1 to 6) as within-subject variables. per High.. had no significant effect on recall accuracy. M S E = .67. An alpha level of .53.326. for low-frequency words there were significant main effects of serial position. This main effect of list type was modified Low-frequencywords 1.040.

040 .213 Unfaraifiarized Pure I-IF . 84) = . For the purposes of these analyses. simple familiarization with the words used in the experiment had no significant effect on recall One other critical effect apparent from Figure 1 is that recall of the pure familiarized lists of low-frequency words appears to be at an equivalent level to that for familiarized high-frequency words (mean correct recall of 67. list-type.276 . R is also important to note that the main effect of familiarization. MSE = .121 Pure LF .MSE = .132 Pure LF .050 . was not significant in this analysis. 42) = 1411/7. reflects the fact that after familiarization. F(1.001. It is clear that the rate of order errors is fairly constant across all eight conditions of the experiment (ranging from 11% to 14%). MSE = . and item errors. The pattern of recall errors made in the experiment was analyzed to see what light it shed on the processes affected by inducing interitem associations. confirming that there were significantly more item errors in the alternating lists than in the pure lists.01. MSE = .063 .548 . for completeness. where participants failed to recall the correct item.061 .066 Familiarized Pure I-IF .024 Intraset intrusions .224 Alternating LF . unfamiliarized) × 2 (pure vs. and (c) intraset intrusions.7% and 69. In summary. MSE = . these analyses of item and order errors support the conclusion that the effects of intefitem association obtained in this experiment reflect changes in memory for item Table 1 Proportion of Items Correctly Recalled and Proportion of Different Error Categories in Each Condition in the Experiment EITors Item Condition Correct Order Total Omissions Extraset intrusions .52. collapsing across the different item error types.002. F(1.002 .26. and word frequency. and this was confirmed by a 2 (high vs. MSE = .126 .034.002.106 .000 .152 .669 .41.119 .055 . thus. even in the case of low-frequency words. F(1. Tests of simple effects confirmed that recall of the pure lists of familiarized words was superior to recall of the alternating lists of familiarized words F(1.122 Alternating HF .677 .016. the difference between pure and alternating lists was particularly marked for low-frequency words. indicating that familiarization produced a selective reduction in item errors in the pure lists. Item errors were in turn broken down into three subtypes: (a) omissions.052 . 84) = 1. also shows the proportion of items correct in each condition.002. low-frequency) X 2 (familiarized vs.553 .47. These error 799 rates are shown in Table 1.028 . there were large differences between conditions in the proportion of item errors made. (b) extraset intrusions. where an item that had been presented in the list was recalled in the wrong position.038 . 84) = 6. 84) = .139 .002.27. t(21) = . 84) = 4. MSE = . 84) = 33. the associative link~ between low-frequency words produced as a result of our paired familiarization procedure have completely eliminated the effects of word frequency on serial recall that are present in the unfamiliarized conditions of this experiment. This pattern precisely parallels the pattern found for the overall recall scores reported earlier.01.000 . which. Thus. a significant three-way interaction between familiarization.1%. 42) = 0. or familiarization. respectively).127 . F(1. MSE = .242. F(1.159 .OBSERVATION by a significant interaction between list type and familiarization.099 Alternating I-IF . In contrast. None of the interactions were significant. A t-test confirmed that recall of the familiarized pure list low-frequency words and the familiarized pure list high-frequency words did not differ significantly.41.225 Note.034. 42) = 25.01. F(1. list type.695 . where an item recalled was from one of the two pools of experimental items that had not been presented on that particular trial.193 . We will first consider the data for order and item errors.137 .161 Alternating LF . ns. An equivalent 2 × 2 × 2 ANOVA for the item error data revealed a significant main effect of list type. where a nonexperimental word was recalled. 42) = 1.117 .16. Finally. . showing that more item errors occurred for low-frequency words than for high-frequency words. F(1. The main effect of word frequency was also significant. but that there was no reliable difference between recall of the pure and alternating lists in the unfamiliarized condition F(1. but not on unfamiliarized words. HF ffi high-frequency words.001 . These main effects were modified by a significant two-way interaction between list type and familiarization. LF = low-frequency words.57.178 . MSE = .593 . Errors in recall were classified as order errors.137 .000 . reflecting the fact that list type had a significant effect on familiarized words. alternating) ANOVA that showed no main effects of either word-frequency.003 .026.319 . 84) = 20.02. MSE = . F(1.691 .304 .702 . MSE = .202 . order errors were conditionalized on the number of items correctly recalled in each condition. where no response was given. F(1.

that is. is small in magnitude. Whereas all item pairs presented in the pure list conditions had cooccurred during familiarization.001. More specifically. . it cannot be said that participants had simply learned a particular order of items. and a significant three-way interaction between word frequency. 1-2 vs. these errors did occur but only with any regularity for the low-frequency word lists. F(1. and list type. 84) = 1. F(1. 1997) were interpreted as evidence that long-term memory processes influence shortterm memory performance. comparison of the two alternating preexposure conditions with the no-preexposure conditions (in which participants were required to recall lists of low. it is noteworthy that participants in the familiarized groups virtually never made extraset intrusions. In the unfamiliarized groups. First. There was no significant effect of list type. 2-1) had been presented equally often in the familiarized pure lists. however.024. M S E -.001. M S E = . that word frequency was an item-level variable and that highfrequency words were intrinsically easier to recall. Crucially. This interaction reflects the fact that after familiarization the difference between pure and alternating lists was particularly marked for low-frequency words. suggests that the recall advantage for high-frequency words in immediate serial recall tasks may be explained entirely in terms of greater interitem associative links between these items.or high-frequency words without any familiarization) showed that preexposure alone had no significant effect on recall performance. The only significant interaction was between word frequency and familiarization. F(1.g.63. An ANOVA on the proportions of intraset intiusions revealed only a main effect of fist type. These analyses support the idea that the selective beneficial effect of item co-occurrence on the recall of low-frequency words found here reflects a selective reduction in the number of omission errors made.000. however. that must underfie the item co-occurrence effect.001. list type. this effect of long-term knowledge on short-term memory performance cannot be explained at the level of individual items. essentially. and that these differences between the representations of words affected a process of redintegration (trace reconstruction) at retrieval. in turn. coupled with the finding that inducing interitem associative links between low-frequency words boosted their recall to the same level as high-frequency words. M S E = . Discussion We have investigated the effect of familiarization with word pairs on the subsequent recall of those same words in an immediate serial recall task. The familiarization with pairs of words was designed to increase the strength of interitem associative links between the representations of these words in long-term memory..70. F(1. F(1.81. Similarly. Because both ordered combinations of each pair (e.78. but one that is independent of the frequency with which items have been presented in the course of an experimental session.. When item errors. adjacent test items in the alternating lists had not. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of our findings is that after familiarizatila with item pairs.64. low-frequency words were recalled as accurately as highfrequency words. We argued. 84) = 12. there were a moderate number of intraset intrusions in all conditions (rangitig from roughly 4% to 7% across conditions). but no equivalent change in the recall of high- frequency words. and familiarization. Our previous studies of the effects of word frequency on short-term memory (Huhne et al. we argued that the phonological representations of high-frequency words were better specified or easier to access than the representations of low-frequency words. F(1. M S E = . This effect. 84) = 14. This pattern parallels that found for the overall recall scores and for overall item errors reported earlier. M S E = . because all items had been presented equally often. the recall advantage for high-frequency words was attributable to interitem associations. It should be emphasized that. we found a substantial improvement in the subsequent serial recall of low-frequency words following familiarization with item pairs. confirming that there were more of these errors in the alternating list than the pure list conditions. an interesting pattern emerges.001. An ANOVA on the proportion of omission errors revealed significant main effects of word frequency. whereas in the alternating lists the response set consisted of 12 possible items only half of which were present on any given trial. This finding has important implications both for theories of short-term memory and for the way in which word frequency effects are interpreted. By comparison. or more specifically the artificially induced associative links between items. 84) = 18. We will consider each of these issues in the remainder of this discussion. M S E = .001. F(1. reflecting the fact that the extralist errors occurred almost exclusively for the recall of lowfrequency unfamiliarized lists.800 OBSERVATION information without any selective changes in memory for order information. 84) = 9. Deese's argument was that highfrequency words co-occur statistically more often in natural language than do low-frequency words (cf. 84) = 21. 84) = 11. M S E = . F(1. Finally. simple familiarity with the items themselves cannot account for this effect. Howes. A 2 x 2 X 2 ANOVA on the proportion of extraset intrusions for each condition revealed significant main effects for both word frequency.37.69. they did not recall items that had not been presented in the experiment. 1957). 84) = 17. and familiarization. This. As predicted. This effect shows that in the pure list conditions participants were able to benefit from having the response set restricted to just six items that were presented in different orders on any given trial. are broken down into the subcategories shown in Table 1.. in the familiarized conditions. Instead it is the relationship between items. all items presented in the serial recall task had been presented to participants equally often during the course of the experiment and that only the frequency of co-occurrence differed between the pure and alternating lists.96. M S E = .001. The present experiment also demonstrates an influence of long-term knowledge on short-term memory performance. The impetus for the present experiment came from the suggestion by Deese (1960) that in free recall. By far the largest proportion of item errors were omissions (ranging from roughly 10% to 23% across conditions).

but this is a radical suggestion and would require further experiments to support it. On the basis of the co-occurrence hypothesis. based on association strength. Nalrne.OBSERVATION 801 Strikingly. per se. Rieglcr. As a modification to this view. and the pattern of recall errors showed that extraset intrusions occasionally occurred but only to an appreciable extent in the unfamiliarized low-frequency conditions. However.. 1979) because the relationshipsbetween listitems are criticalin determining recall performance. This suggests that for low-frequency items familiarity with the item set used in an experiment may have a small effect in helping participants to retrieve the correct items. This view. Specifically. prccxposure alone did not significantly affect recall performance. it is certainly clear that in the present experiment any effect of item familiarity per se was very small in comparison to the effect of item co-occurrence. but it is clear that such effects cannot be explained by attributing the effects of word frequency on immediate serial recall entirely to differences in interitem associative links in long-term memory. Moss. & Serra. we argue that the association strength between items presented in any repeated sequence will strengthen with each repetition. 1996. The parallel between the Hebb effect and the item co-occurrence effect demonstrated here for low-frequency words is clear in that a relatively small number of exposures to the stimuli was sufficient to improve short-term recall performance. 1996. differences in recall between high.Furthermore. and Tyler (1994) have argued that associative priming may also be explained in terms of lexical co-occurrence. Such effects were interpreted by DeLosh and McDaniel in terms of variations in the strength of item and order encoding processes.. produced as a result of preexposure to word pairs. Rather. small sets of items were presented repeatedly for participants to recall. with no effect on memory for order information. The present findings may usefully be related to our earlier suggestion that word frequency operates to facilitate a redintegrative process in serial recall (Hulme et al. In the present study there was a small. For example. It is important to note that in the present experiment. without further assumptions.and low-frequency words recall should be better in lists in which the proportion of high frequency words is greater. and so our study differs from the Hebb effect insofar as we have demonstrated that it is not order. in turn. data presented in DeLosh and McDaniel (1996) do not support this prediction. However. they suggested that these associations arise through lexical . 1960). The present experiment demonstrates beyond doubt that interitem associations. Hare. Day. This is exactly the pattern that would be predicted by the view that the frequency effect in serial recall is entirely mediated by interitem associations. if items were ever presented only once in an experiment. The data from the present experiment are certainly consistent with the idea that they might be. it is interesting to note certain similarities between the present findings (and our interpretation of them) and recent accounts of semantic priming. goes some way toward accounting for the finding that the typical recall advantage for high-frequency words is eliminated when high. and the recall of high-frequency words was unaffected by such preassociation training. but that were masked in the present experiment. though statistically nonsignificant. the order learning assumed to be operating in the Hebb effect is plainly absent in the present experiment. 1997). it is possible that there are weaker effects of the frequency of item occurrence that are independent of item association frequency. In line with Fischler (1977). that is remembered. the recall of preassociated low-frequency words was indistinguishable from the recall of high-frequency words. It is of some interest to contrast the results of the present study with findings from studies of the Hebb effect. They noted that associates such as pil/ar and society will prime one another in the absence of any semantic association between the words involved. An important additional question to consider is the extent to which word frequency effects in serial recall can be explained purely in terms of interitem association values. That account was based on the idea that redintegration was more efficient for high-frequency items because they had more accessible or better specified representations in longterm memory. the present experiment suggests that the availability of item representations in long-term memory necessary to support redintegration is also dependent upon interitem associative links.and low-frequency words are mixed within the same list (DcLosh & McDaniel. recall advantage for familiarized over unfamiliarized lists of lowfrequency words. It is conceivable that.and low-frequency word lists when the words were selected to have equivalent (zero) interitem associations (Deese. However. This in turn suggests that the recall advantage of high-frequency words in immediate serial recall tasks may be explained in terms of interitem association differences. We suggest that interitem associations may create a mutually supportive network of item nodes that makes a long-term memory representation of each candidate item more accessible at the point of item retrieval. there is some support between the representations of the items themselves. This finding is consistent with the idea that in free recall interitem associations are entirely responsible for the recall advantage of high-frequency words. our finding that interitem associativelinks in long-term memory are critical for explaining the typical recall advantage for high= frequency words cannot explain the finding that lowfrequency words are sometimes recalled better than highfrequency words within a mixed frequency list(DcLosh & McDaniel. he demonstrated that there was no difference in the free recall of high. Furthermore. the idea that interitem associations underlie the superiority in recall of highfrequency words would lead us to expect that in mixed lists of high. Finally. 1991). We have not compared the effects of mixing words of different frequency in the same list in this study. However. it is a striking aspect of the present data that interitem associations produce improvements in item memory for low-frequency words. Statistically. but at the expense of allocating fewer attentional resources to the encoding of order information across the rest of the list. M a y et al. Indeed.and lowfrequency words might be greater. exert a powerful effect on immediate serial recall. they argued that low-frequency words embedded in lists of high-frequency words might attract disproportionate attentional resources to their encoding.

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