Memory retrieval and the problem of scanning

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According to R. Ratcliff's (1978) theory of memory retrieval, a recognition probe is compared in parallel with items in memory. The comparisons self-terminate if a match is found but are otherwise exhaustive. By contrast, S. Sternberg (1975) has argued, in the more limited context of this “memory scanning” paradigm, that comparisons between the probe and the memorized set are serial and exhaustive across both matches and nonmatches. The discrepancy may arise because the 2 theories focus on different aspects of the data. It is suggested that they can be partly reconciled if it is assumed that the serial scanning component identified by Sternberg does not involve comparison. Instead, it may be a process whereby items in the memory set are serially decoded before the comparison process occurs. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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