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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emphasizing associations from encoding affects free recall at retrieval


Paradigms using the free recall of word lists have furthered our understanding of the organizational structure of memory by elucidating the role of contextual associations on memory search. We adapted the traditional word list-learning paradigm to investigate whether emphasizing contextual associations between items influences subsequent retrieval. Specifically, we introduced a review period between encoding and recall of word lists where items were repeated to highlight either the temporal or semantic associations at encoding. We found that temporal review led to stronger temporal clustering compared to a semantic or control review, and semantic review led to stronger semantic clustering compared to a temporal or control review. Moreover, participants recalled more list items when semantic associations were emphasized, with the degree of semantic clustering at recall predicting memory performance. These results demonstrate that emphasizing contextual associations during a repeated viewing after initial encoding can affect subsequent memory organization and recall.

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