Phrase frequency effects in free recall: Evidence for redintegration

Cassandra L. Jacobs, Gary S. Dell, Colin Bannard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Three experiments examined the effects of word and phrase frequency on free recall. Word frequency did not affect word recall, but when participants studied and recalled lists of compositional adjective-noun phrases (e.g. alcoholic beverages), phrase frequency had a consistently beneficial effect: both words from frequent phrases were more likely to be recalled than for infrequent phrases, providing evidence that long-term memory for phrases can aid in pattern completion, or redintegration. We explain these results and those of a previous study of phrase frequency effects in recognition memory (Jacobs, Dell, Benjamin, & Bannard, 2016) by assuming that the language processing system provides features that are linked to episodic contexts. Recall tasks map from these contexts to linguistic elements, and recognition maps from linguistic elements to contexts. Word and phrase frequency effects in both memory tasks emerge both within the language processing system and from multiple stored episodes, and the fact that the representations of phrases are tied to knowledge of their component words, rather than being representational islands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Language production
  • Memory
  • Phrase frequency
  • Recall
  • Redintegration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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