The role of generation in recognition

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In contrast to the widely accepted opinion, a negatively accelerated RT function was obtained with varied mapping of stimuli to responses in Sternberg's (1966) recognition task when the task was designed to reduce proactive inhibition. These results are similar to the results obtained in the distractor task. Those aspects of the distractor task that proactively inhibit recall of the trigram are also necessary to produce a linear RT function in the recognition task. Hence, the varied‐set procedure only results in a linear RT function when the memory sets on successive trials contain similar items, but not when successive trials contain different kinds of items, e.g., digits versus letters. Also, once subjects have been trained on the fixed‐set procedure to produce a negatively accelerated RT function, the training transfers completely and immediately to entirely new sets of targets and distractors. The results of both tasks, as well as other retrieval tasks, can be explained by a model containing a single comparison process and an optional serial generation process which is invoked to increase the discriminability of the memory set from distractors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-267
Number of pages13
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


  • Generation
  • memory scanning
  • recognition


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