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Effects of Conceptual Processing on Recognition and Conceptual Priming

Ramponi, C. (2001). Effects of Conceptual Processing on Recognition and Conceptual Priming. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The depth of encoding processes has been a variable of great importance in the study of the conscious correlates of memory. The presence of depth-of-processing effects in an intentional (direct or explicit) memory test has been interpreted as a marker of the engagement of voluntary retrieval associated with conscious recollection of the study episode. The absence of such effects in an incidental (indirect or implicit) memory test, where memory for previously encountered material is expressed as priming, has been interpreted as the marker of a form of involuntary retrieval. A problem arises in conceptual incidental tests, where priming is guided by a conceptual connection between the retrieval cue and the target memory, rather than by a perceptual connection. Depth-of-processing effects are usually reported in conceptual priming. The presence of such effects in conceptual priming creates problems for theories of the conscious correlates of memory in two main respects. In one respect, it is argued that dissociations between intentional and perceptual incidental tests are not due to the tests tapping voluntary and involuntary memory respectively, otherwise depth-of-processing effects would be absent in conceptual priming as well. The logic of this argument implies that the voluntary/involuntary dimension of memory is not an appropriate theoretical construct to explain the dissociations. In the second respect, depth-of-processing effects in priming have been interpreted as the results of contamination from a voluntary retrieval strategy and therefore they do not reflect involuntary memory. However, there are a small number of reports of an absence of depth-of-processing effects in conceptual incidental tests that undermine the arguments proposed above. In this thesis, the aim was to identify the circumstances under which depth-of-processing effects occur in conceptual incidental tests. Firstly, following Toth’s (1996) suggestion that familiarity in recognition memory is mediated by the same processes that mediate conceptual priming, the effects of depth-of-processing were investigated upon measures of familiarity. In Toth’s (1996) study, a speeded response procedure, designed to capture familiarity based responses, revealed an effect of depth of processing on familiarity, as in conceptual priming. Toth’s findings were replicated, but "Know" responses, collected in conjunction with the speeded responses, were found not to be susceptible to depth-of-processing effects. The implications of this finding are discussed. Depth-of- processing effects in conceptual incidental tests of word association were investigated next. In six different conditions, a dissociation was replicated between intentional tests and conceptual incidental tests following a manipulation of depth of processing at study. The manipulation had an effect on the retrieval of strong associates in the intentional test but not in the incidental test. This dissociation was replicated in older adults and was not an artefact of ceiling effects (as compound weak-associates did not show an effect of depth of processing) nor "response bias" (as this was equated between the two tests). A further experiment, in which study-test modality was manipulated, supported the hypothesis that the test tapped more conceptual processes. The absence of depth-of-processing effects could not be explained by this task tapping perceptual processes. The overall results make two major related points. Firstly, the dissociations support the idea that the involuntary/voluntary dichotomy in memory is still an important theoretical construct with explanatory power. Secondly, the dissociations go against the hypothesis that conceptual incidental tests are contaminated by voluntary retrieval strategies.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
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