Using maintenance-rehearsal to better understand the role of recollection and attention capture in associative recognition

Kimberley McFarlane (2011). Using maintenance-rehearsal to better understand the role of recollection and attention capture in associative recognition PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Kimberley McFarlane
Thesis Title Using maintenance-rehearsal to better understand the role of recollection and attention capture in associative recognition
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Michael Humphreys
Total pages 129
Total black and white pages 129
Language eng
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary The maintenance-rehearsal paradigm (Glenberg, Smith, & Green, 1977; Rundus, 1977) was employed to examine the contribution of recollection in associative recognition judgments as well as to investigate whether the paradigm may be able to be used to provide converging evidence on the construct of attention in memory research. The paradigm requires participants to recall a series of multi-digit numbers after short delays. During each delay, pairs of words are rehearsed a number of times and participants are led to believe that this rehearsal activity is provided to distract them from recalling the digits. In actuality, the word pairs are examined in a surprise recognition test at the conclusion of the experiment. Maintenance-rehearsal produces very low levels of incidental learning for the rehearsed word pairs whilst simultaneously reducing strategy use, both of which present problems for examining the processes that have been theorized to underlie recognition judgments (familiarity and recollection) using traditional memory tasks. The role of attention in memory was also of interest as it was felt that digit recall performance may be able to provide an independent measure of the amount of attention captured by the word pairs, with associative recognition providing a measure of the effects of attention. As a result, Study 1 (Humphreys et al., 2010) manipulated word frequency for the rehearsed word pairs and employed a graded levels of learning design with two, four, or six pair rehearsals provided in either a massed or spaced fashion per digit study-test trial. Supporting the idea that digit recall may be able to be used as an independent measure of attention, performance was poorer when low frequency pairs were rehearsed relative to high frequency pairs, and this was accompanied by an advantage in delayed associative recognition for low frequency pairs. New pairs also produced similarly low levels of digit recall to low frequency pairs relative to intact pairs. On the basis of these results, an attention capture hypothesis was put forth which suggested that the poorer digit recall observed when low frequency and new pairs were rehearsed was due to those materials capturing a greater amount of attention than high frequency and intact pairs, thereby reducing the consolidation resources available for the 4-digit number while enhancing memory for the attention capturing material. Given the very low levels of learning employed in this study, these findings also provided the first indication that recollection is unlikely to be solely responsible for discrimination between intact and rearranged pairs or for the low frequency hit rate advantage as has been proposed in some dual-process models. Nevertheless, further work was required in order to establish whether differential displaced digit rehearsal was a feasible alternative explanation for the Study 1 findings. Accordingly, Study 2 and Study 3 (McFarlane & Humphreys, in press) held word frequency constant and introduced switch trials in which two different pairs were rehearsed once each within a single trial. By comparing the results from switch trials to those of two-rehearsal trials in which single pairs were rehearsed twice, it was felt that the role of displaced rehearsal could be established. A further focus of these studies was to determine which characteristics of pair novelty were most important for the attention capture effect observed with new pairs in Study 1, and two different attention manipulations were also employed. In both studies, switch trials were associated with poorer digit recall than two-rehearsal trials, providing strong evidence against displaced rehearsal. The first pairs rehearsed in switch trials also appeared to sustain interference akin to that observed with 4-digit numbers, however the second pairs did not. This was hypothesized to be due to the switch to the second pair capturing attention away from the first pair, thus enhancing memory for the second pair while interfering with consolidation for the first. These findings supported the idea that novelty is the most important characteristic of attention capturing material, a conclusion that was strengthened by the attention manipulation in Study 3 demonstrating that manipulating perception of novelty influenced whether attention capture effects were observed. Study 3 also established that the associative recognition component of attention capture effects was more sensitively reflected in false alarm rates than hit rates, a finding that only dual-process models invoking recollection are able to accommodate. However, as a supplementary experiment clearly showed that recollection could not possibly take place at the very low levels of learning in the current studies, these findings are challenging for any extant model to account for. Finally, Study 4 was conducted in order to reconcile the findings from Studies 1 through 3 by manipulating word frequency and replicating the Study 3 attention manipulation. The digit recall findings replicated those obtained previously, however as the associative recognition findings were unexpected, directions for future research were able to be drawn from this study.
Keyword memory
associative recognition
short-term memory
maintenance rehearsal
attention capture

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