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Memory as discrimination: what distraction reveals

Beaman, C. Philip, Hanczakowski, Maciej ORCID:, Hodgetts, Helen M., Marsh, John Everett ORCID: and Jones, Dylan Marc ORCID: 2013. Memory as discrimination: what distraction reveals. Memory and Cognition 41 (8) , pp. 1238-1251. 10.3758/s13421-013-0327-4

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Recalling information involves the process of discriminating between relevant and irrelevant information stored in memory. Not infrequently, the relevant information needs to be selected from among a series of related possibilities. This is likely to be particularly problematic when the irrelevant possibilities not only are temporally or contextually appropriate, but also overlap semantically with the target or targets. Here, we investigate the extent to which purely perceptual features that discriminate between irrelevant and target material can be used to overcome the negative impact of contextual and semantic relatedness. Adopting a distraction paradigm, it is demonstrated that when distractors are interleaved with targets presented either visually (Experiment 1) or auditorily (Experiment 2), a within-modality semantic distraction effect occurs; semantically related distractors impact upon recall more than do unrelated distractors. In the semantically related condition, the number of intrusions in recall is reduced, while the number of correctly recalled targets is simultaneously increased by the presence of perceptual cues to relevance (color features in Experiment 1 or speaker’s gender in Experiment 2). However, as is demonstrated in Experiment 3, even presenting semantically related distractors in a language and a sensory modality (spoken Welsh) distinct from that of the targets (visual English) is insufficient to eliminate false recalls completely or to restore correct recall to levels seen with unrelated distractors . Together, the study shows how semantic and nonsemantic discriminability shape patterns of both erroneous and correct recall.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: Psychonomic Society
ISSN: 0090-502X
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 10:59

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