Interactions Between Study Task, Study Time, and the Low-Frequency Hit Rate Advantage in Recognition Memory

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In studies of episodic recognition memory, low-frequency words (LF) have higher hit rates (HR) and lower false alarm rates (FAR) than do high-frequency words (HF), which is known as the mirror pattern. A few findings have suggested that requiring a task at study may reduce or eliminate the LF-HR advantage without altering the LF-FAR effect. Other studies have suggested that the size of the LF-HR advantage interacts with study time. To explore such findings more thoroughly and relate them to theory, the authors conducted 5 experiments, varying study time and study task. The full mirror pattern was found only in 2 cases: the standard condition requiring study for a later memory test and a condition requiring a judgment about unusual letters. The authors explain their findings in terms of the encoding of distinctive features and discuss the implications for current theories of recognition memory and the word frequency effect.

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