Person memory: Some tests of associative storage and retrieval models

Thomas K. Srull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


408 undergraduates participated in 4 experiments examining an associative model of memory, according to which the encoding of an incongruent item will result in the formation of a large number of associative paths between items, facilitating subsequent recall. Ss were better at recalling items that were incongruent with a prior expectancy than those that were congruent, and the difference was as pronounced after a delay of 48 hrs as it was after only a few minutes. Adding incongruent items to the list increased the proportion of congruent items that were recalled, but adding congruent items had no effect on the recall of incongruent items. It is suggested that unexpected or incongruent behaviors are difficult to comprehend and are considered in relation to behaviors already known about the target person during the process of encoding. Requiring Ss to allocate a portion of their processing capacity to an irrelevant task interfered with their ability to form such linkages and reduced the advantage of incongruent over congruent items in a free-recall task. Although the results are consistent with a variety of associative models that allow for the formation of linkages between items, it is suggested that the data place important constraints on the way such models may be formulated. (67 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-463
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1981


  • congruency of others' behaviors &
  • distraction, associative storage &
  • expectancies &
  • retrieval in person memory, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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