fan effect

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A tendency for the amount of time required to retrieve a particular fact about a concept to increase with the number of facts that are known about that concept. The effect has been found in retrieval of various categories of knowledge, and also in face recognition, and it may in part be responsible for the slowing of memory retrieval with age. The concept was first reported in 1974 by the Canadian-born US psychologist John R(obert) Anderson (born 1947), who performed an experiment in which participants tried to memorize a list of 26 sentences about people in locations, such as A hippie is in the park, A hippie is in the church, and A lawyer is in the cave. In the list, each person (concept) was associated with either one, two, or three locations (facts); for example, hippie was associated with park, church, and bank, and in addition each location was associated with either one, two, or three persons, for example, cave was associated with lawyer only. Recall was tested by asking the participants to pick out the target sentences from a list in which the sentences that they had learnt were mixed up with foils constructed from the same people and locations in novel combinations. The average time required to accept target sentences and reject foils was 1.19 seconds for concepts with one associated fact, 1.28 seconds for concepts with two associated facts, and 1.30 seconds for concepts with three associated facts, and this effect has been replicated many times. See also ACT*. [An acronym, from facts associated with node, a concept being represented by a node (2) in Anderson's network model. Anderson did not use the word fan in his original 1974 article but began using it immediately after]

Subjects: Psychology.

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