Procedures for investigating imagery and the distinction between primary and secondary memory

Richardson, John T. E. (1976). Procedures for investigating imagery and the distinction between primary and secondary memory. British Journal of Psychology, 67(4) pp. 487–500.



Previous research has shown that the imageability of the material affects the secondary memory (SM) component of free recall, but not the primary memory (PM) component. However, other research has shown that imageability affects the recall of items of low concreteness, but not of those of high concreteness. Expt. I related these findings by showing that the effect of imageability on items of low concreteness applied to SM, but not to PM. However, the effect of the imagery ability of the subjects did not accord well with this framework. Subjects of high imagery ability produced a larger recency effect, but a smaller primacy effect. It was suggested that subjects of high imagery ability use imagery in learning, but that they fail to use it in an interactive way. This was supported by the results of Expt. II, which found that subjects given separative imagery instructions produced similar serial position curves to subjects of high imagery ability. On the other hand, interactive imagery instructions produced an increase in performance over all serial positions. It was concluded that separative imagery instructions disrupt performance by interfering with the subject's organization of a list, and that the PM/SM distinction should be extended to take into account the variety of possible strategies employed by subjects in learning.

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