Assessing the Effect of Lexical Variables in Backward Recall

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In a recent study, Bireta et al. (2010) suggested that when participants are required to recall lists of items in the reverse order, more attention is devoted to the recall of order at the expense of item information, leading to the abolition of item-based phenomena (the item and order trade-off hypothesis). In order to test the item and order trade-off hypothesis, we manipulated 4 lexical factors that are well known to influence item retention. The effects of word frequency, of lexicality, of semantic similarity, and of imageability were tested in forward and backward recall. All 4 phenomena were maintained in backward recall, which contradicts the item and order trade-off hypothesis. Instead, we suggest that backward recall might rely on semantic retrieval strategies.

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