Abolishing the Word-Length Effect

Charles Hulme, Aimée M. Surprenant, Tamra J. Bireta, George Stuart, Ian Neath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors report 2 experiments that compare the recall of long and short words in pure and mixed lists. In pure lists, long words were much more poorly remembered than short words. In mixed lists, this word-length effect was abolished and both the long and short words were recalled as well as short words in pure lists. These findings contradict current models that seek to explain the word-length effect in terms of item-based effects such as difficulty in assembling items, or in terms of list-based accounts of rehearsal speed. An alternative explanation, drawing on ideas of item complexity and item distinctiveness, is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


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