Retrieving Information From Memory: Spreading-Activation Theories Versus Compound-Cue Theories

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McNamara (1992a) attacked compound-cue theories on a number of grounds. Using free association as a measure of distance between concepts in memory, he argued that compound-cue theories cannot explain mediated priming effects. The authors show that free-association production probabilities do not accurately predict priming effects, either directly or in the context of current spreading-activation models, and so remove the basis for McNamara's criticism. McNamara also claimed that compound-cue theories cannot account for the sequential effects of items that precede a target on responses to the target, but the authors show that sequential effects are consistent with compound-cue models if the target item is weighted more heavily than preceding items in the calculation of familiarity that determines response time and accuracy for the target. It is concluded that, although compound-cue and spreading-activation theories are both consistent with available data, the compound-cue theory, having less freedom, has passed more stringent tests.

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