Revisiting backward recall and benchmark memory effects: a reply to Bireta et al. (2010)
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When participants are asked to recall lists of items in the reverse order, known as backward recall, several benchmark memory phenomena, such as the word length effect, are abolished (Bireta et al. Memory & Cognition 38:279-291, 2010). Bireta et al. (Memory & Cognition 38:279-291, 2010) suggested that in backward recall, reliance on order retention is increased at the expense of item retention, leading to the abolition of item-based phenomena. In a subsequent study, however, Guérard and Saint-Aubin (in press) showed that four lexical factors known to modulate item retention were unaffected by recall direction. In a series of five experiments, we examined the source of the discrepancy between the two studies. We revisited the effects of phonological similarity, word length, articulatory suppression, and irrelevant speech, using open and closed pools of words in backward and forward recall. The results are unequivocal in showing that none of these effects are influenced by recall direction, suggesting that Bireta et al.'s (Memory & Cognition 38:279-291, 2010) results are the consequence of their particular stimuli.
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