The Effects of Word Co-Occurrence on Short-Term Memory: Associative Links in Long-Term Memory Affect Short-Term Memory Performance

George Stuart, Charles Hulme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In immediate serial recall tasks, high-frequency words are recalled better than low-frequency words. This has been attributed to high-frequency words' being better represented and providing more effective support to a redintegration process at retrieval (C. Hulme et al., 1997). In studies of free recall, there is evidence that frequency of word co-occurrence, rather than word frequency per se, may explain the recall advantage enjoyed by high-frequency words (J. Deese, 1960). The authors present evidence that preexposing pairs of low-frequency words, so as to create associative links between them, has substantial beneficial effects on immediate serial recall performance. These benefits, which are not attributable to simple familiarization with the words per se, do not occur for high-frequency words. These findings indicate that associative links between items in long-term memory have important effects on short-term memory performance and suggest that the effects of word frequency in short-term memory tasks are related to differences in interitem associations in long-term memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-802
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2000

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