THE EFFECTS OF SIMILARITY ON VERY-SHORT-TERM MEMORY UNDER CONDITIONS OF MAXIMAL INFORMATION PROCESSING DEMANDS.
MICHIGAN UNIV ANN ARBOR HUMAN PERFORMANCE CENTER
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Two experiments were conducted to assess the role of similarity in very-short-term memory under conditions of stimulus presentation which assured perception but permitted little or no rehearsal of the to-be-recalled items. Sequences of 12 alphanumeric items were presented on a Bina-Vue screen at a rate of 3sec. to the subject who read aloud each item as he perceived it. The presentation of each sequence was followed by a recall test which presented one item from the sequence as a probe stimulus and required recall of the item or items which had immediately succeeded the probe in the sequence. Within a sequence both the number of items similar to the to-be-recalled unit TBRU and the proximity of these items to the TBRU were systematically varied. Striking effects of similarity on performance were obtained in both experiments. Performance decreased as a function of the number and proximity of prior and subsequent items similar to the TBRU. The results offer general support for associative type models of short-term memory and argue against models which assume that retention from short-term memory, primary memory, or a buffer-like store is invariant with respect to the similarity between the surrounding items and the item to be retrieved. Author