Redintegration and item recognition, effects of storage unit size and context
Halldorson, Michael K.
Prior research suggests item recognition can involve the redintegration of a storage unit from memory. Evidence for this claim indicates that items from large storage units take longer to recognize than do items from small storage units but only when the study and the test context differ. This evidence, however, offers only limited support because data from storage units larger than word pairs are lacking. Accordingly, two experiments examined whether the interactive effects of storage unit size and context would generalize to the recognition of items from storage units larger than word pairs. In both experiments, participants used interactive mental imagery to organize groups of unrelated words into newly integrated storage units. The number of words within each group varied. In the subsequent item recognition test, a priming technique was used to manipulate test context. In the same context condition, the prime and target came from the same storage unit; in the different context condition, the prime and target came from different storage units. Experiment 1 explored priming effects for storage units that were word pairs, triplets, and quadruplets. The results indicated significant effects of storage unit size and context, but, contrary to expectation, these effects were additive. These results suggested that target processing was the source of the storage unit size effect. Experiment 2 tested this hypothesis further by exploring priming effects for storage units that were pairs and triplets at either a short (400 ms), a medium (1000 ms), or a long (2000 ms) stimulus onset asynchrony. Moreover, in the different context condition the storage unit size for the prime and for the target were combined factorially. Despite these changes, however, the only effect was the additive effect of storage unit size and context, indicating that the processing of the target was indeed the source of the storage unit size effect. The results support the conclusion that recognition of an item can involve the redintegration of a storage unit from memory, but that it is only the item, as opposed to a context item, that initiates the redintegration.