Differential fan effect and attentional focus
Abstract or Description
As people study more facts about a concept, it takes longer to retrieve a particular fact about that concept. This fan effect (Anderson, 1974) has been attributed to competition among associations to a concept. Alternatively, the mental-model theory (Radvansky & Zacks, 1991) suggests that the fan effect disappears when the related concepts are organized into a single mental model. In the present study, attentional focus was manipulated to affect the mental model to be constructed. One group of participants focused on the person dimension of person-location pairs, whereas the other group focused on the location dimension. The result showed that the fan effect with the focused dimension was greater than the fan effect with the nonfocused dimension, which is contrary to the mental-model theory. The number of associations with a concept is indeed crucial during retrieval, and the importance of the information seems to be accentuated with attentional focus.