Serial position functions in general knowledge

Surprenant, Aimée M. and Neath, Ian and Kelley, Matthew R. (2015) Serial position functions in general knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 41 (6). pp. 1715-1727. ISSN 0022-1015

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Serial position functions with marked primacy and recency effects are ubiquitous in episodic memory tasks. The demonstrations reported here explored whether bow-shaped serial position functions would be observed when people ordered exemplars from various categories along a specified dimension. The categories and dimensions were: actors and age; animals and weight; basketball players and height; countries and area; and planets and diameter. In all cases, a serial position function was observed: People were more accurate to order the youngest and oldest actors, the lightest and heaviest animals, the shortest and tallest basketball players, the smallest and largest countries, and the smallest and largest planets, relative to intermediate items. The results support an explanation of serial position functions based on relative distinctiveness, which predicts that serial position functions will be observed whenever a set of items can be sensibly ordered along a particular dimension. The serial position function arises because the first and last items enjoy a benefit of having no competitors on 1 side and therefore have enhanced distinctiveness relative to mid-dimension items, which suffer by having many competitors on both sides.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 12647
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: November 2015
Date Type: Publication
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