A contextual interference account of distinctiveness effects in recognition

H Park
J Arndt
Lynne M. Reder

Abstract or Description

In this article, we report on two experiments that aimed to shed light on the memorability effect that derives from varying the uniqueness of contextual cues presented at encoding and retrieval. We sought to understand the locus of the recognition advantage for studying and testing words with nominally irrelevant features that are rarely shared with other words ("low-fan" features) as compared with features that are studied with more words ("high-fan" features). Each word was studied with one high-fan feature and one low-fan feature, but only one of the two features was reinstated at test. Recognition judgments were more accurate when the low-fan feature was reinstated than when the high-fan feature was reinstated. The data suggest that encoding cues that suffer from contextual interference negatively affect retrieval and do so by hindering recollection-based processing.