Distinctiveness and Memory

Edited by R. Reed Hunt and James B. Worthen

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195169669
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847563 | DOI:
Distinctiveness and Memory

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The basic laboratory technique for studying distinctiveness effect in memory is the isolation paradigm, a simple test in which a list of items is presented for memorization. All items except one are similar in some way. The different item always occurs late in the list, to allow the similarity of the preceding items to establish a context. Subsequent memory for the different item is always better than for the similar items. In 1948, Jenkins and Postman offered the intuitive-differential attention explanation to account for this difference in memory, that an item is remembered because it catches the subject's attention by violating the established context, so leads the subject to devote additional processing to it. It is this additional processing that accounts for enhanced memory. Since 1948, succeeding theories have accepted and perpetuated their explanation. In fact, the isolation effect and the intuitive explanation have applied to most other memory phenomena that fall under the rubric of bizarreness, salience, and novelty. The contributors to this volume argue that the intuitive-differential attention explanation and theories following from it are incorrect. The purpose of the volume is to test these currently accepted theories by contrasting them with the results of current research on the processes supporting them. The result is a much needed restructuring of the theories.

Keywords: distinctiveness; memory; isolation paradigm; memorisation; intuitive-differential attention; enhanced memory; isolation effect; Jenkins; Postman

Book.  476 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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