This paper reports the results of a study of free association in which participants were asked to produce the first two words to come to mind. The findings were used to estimate the reliability of indices of strength and set size for different types of items and to model free association as a retrieval task. When confined to first responses, reliability was generally high for both indices, particularly for words with smaller sets of associates and stronger primaries. When second responses were included, reliability declined. A second response added new but weak items to the set, and, when the primary associate was not produced on the first opportunity, it bended not to be produced on the second. Relative to when multiple responses are requested, first-response free association provides more reliable indices of the relative strength and set size for a word's strongest associates. A model of free association assuming that a strength distribution underlies each response provided a good fit to the data.