Word Frequency Effects in Immediate Serial Recall of Pure and Mixed Lists: Tests of the Associative Link Hypothesis.
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In immediate serial recall, high-frequency words are better recalled than low-frequency words. Recently, it has been suggested that high-frequency words are better recalled because of their better long-term associative links, and not because of the intrinsic properties of their long-term representations. In the experiment reported here, recall performance was compared for pure lists of high- and low-frequency words, and for mixed lists composed of either one low- and five high-frequency words or the reverse. The usual advantage of high-frequency words was found with pure lists and this advantage was reduced, but still significant with mixed lists composed of five low-frequency words. However, the low-frequency word included in a high-frequency list was recalled just as well as high-frequency words. Results are challenging for the associative link hypothesis and are best interpreted within an item-based reconstruction hypothesis, along with a distinctiveness account.
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