The effect of word frequency on recognition of a long word list

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Schulman’s (1974) processing automatization notion suggests that word recognition performance declines over four quarters of a long stimulus list because as subjects work through the list, they increasingly fail to process the contextual features of the stimulus words that aid in retrieval of these words during recognition tests. Mandler (1980) argued that recognition is also based on familiarity. Therefore, it is possible that the decline in word recognition performance is based on a decrease in item familiarity caused by the failure to integrate the perceptual characteristics of the stimulus words. In this experiment, 129 college students studied a list of 100 high- or low-frequency words. The results of this experiment indicated that the rate of decline in word recognition performance was greater for the low-frequency than for the high-frequency words. The author concluded that the declining course of recognition reported by Schulman WBS primarily a function of the subjects’ failure to process the contextual information associated with the stimulus materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-187
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of General Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1992


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