The Bizarreness Effect: Evidence for the Critical Influence of Retrieval Processes

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People show better memory for bizarre sentences relative to common sentences, a finding referred to as the bizarrness effect. Interestingly, this effect is typically only obtained using a mixed-list design, in which participants study common and bizarre sentences in the same list. This bizarreness effect in mixed-list designs has been explained as the result of both enhanced encoding processes and efficient retrieval processes. The present experiment was designed to isolate the unique contributions of the retrieval context to the bizarreness effect. Participants studied common sentences in one room under one set of instructions, and bizarre sentences in another room under another set of instructions. At test, participants recalled the common and bizarre sentences either together or separately. The results showed that the bizarreness effect was only obtained when participants recalled the common and bizarre items together; no bizarreness advantage emerged when participants were required to recall the common and bizarre items separately. These results suggest that differential encoding processes are not necessary for explaining the bizarreness effect in memory. Rather, retrieval of the mixed-list context appears to be critical for obtaining the effect.

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Memorty and Cognition





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