Associative Storage and Retrieval Processes in Person Memory

Thomas K. Srull, Meryl Lichtenstein, Myron Rothbart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, a general associative storage and retrieval theory of person memory is proposed, and seven experiments that test various aspects of the theory are reported. Experiment 1 investigated memory for behavioral information that is congruent with, incongruent with, or irrelevant to a prior impression. The results indicated that incongruent events are best recalled and irrelevant events are most poorly recalled. Experiment 2 replicated this effect and demonstrated that there are systematic individual differences that are consistent with the general nomothetic model proposed. The results of Experiment 3 indicated that, relative to a baseline condition, adding incongruent items to the list increases the probability of recalling congruent items but has no effect on the recall of irrelevant items. Both effects are predicted by the model. Experiment 4 provided support for the retrieval assumptions of the theory by demonstrating that there is a systematic order in which various types of items are recalled, as well as consistent differences in interresponse times. Experiments 5 and 6 demonstrated that the model is relevant to situations in which data driven, as well as conceptually driven, processes are involved. Finally, Experiment 7 examined a special case in which the theory predicts greater recall of congruent than incongruent behavioral events. The results of all seven experiments provide converging evidence for a general theory of person memory, and they have implications for a number of issues related to the study of person memory and social judgment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-345
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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