Adaptive memory: Animacy enhances free recall but impairs cued recall

Earl Y. Popp, Michael J. Serra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent research suggests that human memory systems evolved to remember animate things better than inanimate things. In the present experiments, we examined whether these effects occur for both free recall and cued recall. In Experiment 1, we directly compared the effect of animacy on free recall and cued recall. Participants studied lists of objects and lists of animals for free-recall tests, and studied sets of animal-animal pairs and object- object pairs for cued-recall tests. In Experiment 2, we compared participants' cued recall for English-English, Swahili-English, and English-Swahili word pairs involving either animal or object English words. In Experiment 3, we compared participants' cued recall for animal-animal, object- object, animal- object, and object-animal pairs. Although we were able to replicate past effects of animacy aiding free recall, animacy typically impaired cued recall in the present experiments. More importantly, given the interactions found in the present experiments, we conclude that some factor associated with animacy (e.g., attention capture or mental arousal) is responsible for the present patterns of results. This factor seems to moderate the relationship between animacy and memory, producing a memory advantage for animate stimuli in scenarios where the moderator leads to enhanced target retrievability but a memory disadvantage for animate stimuli in scenarios where the moderator leads to impaired association memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-201
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Volume42
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Keywords

  • Adaptive memory
  • Animacy
  • Cued recall
  • Free recall
  • Paired-associates

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