Modeling Distinctiveness: Implications for General Memory Theory

James S. Nairne

in Distinctiveness and Memory

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195169669
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847563 | DOI:
Modeling Distinctiveness: Implications for General Memory Theory

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To explain the specificity of retention, students of memory appeal often to the concept of distinctiveness. Distinctiveness is not a fixed property of a cue, or a target trace, or even of an interaction between a given cue and a given target. This chapter introduces a simple retrieval model and shows how it helps account for some of the phenomena classically associated with the study of distinctiveness. It shows how the model informs us about the particulars of the von Restorff effect and about the paradoxical effects of processing similarity and difference on episodic retrieval. It then considers the role of time in the calculation of distinctiveness and contrasts the retrieval model with certain extant models of temporal distinctiveness. The chapter ends by discussing how the retrieval model forces us to reassess some widely held beliefs about memory, particularly the notion that memory is directly related to the match between an encoded cue and an encoded target.

Keywords: distinctiveness; memory; retention; encoded cue; encoded target; retrieval model; von Restorff; similarity; difference; episodic retrieval

Chapter.  8963 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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