Evidence for noisy contextual search: Examining the dynamics of list-before-last recall

Nash Unsworth, Gregory J. Spillers, Gene A. Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The dynamics of free recall in the list-before-last task were examined in the current study. List-length was manipulated and probability of recall was influenced by target list-length but not by intervening list-length. Participants also performed free recall on control lists matched on target list-length. Critically, list-before-last recall was worse than recall on the control list, suggesting that the mere presence of an intervening list reduced recall. An examination of intrusion errors suggested that participants recalled both prior and intervening list intrusions and retrieval was influenced by the length of the intervening list-length. Finally, an examination of recall latency suggested that target list-length, but not intervening list-length, influenced recall dynamics. However, recall latency in list-before-last recall was longer than in the control lists, suggesting that the mere presence of intervening list influenced recall latency. Taken together, the results are consistent with the notion that in list-before-last recall participants rely on noisy contextual cues that activate both target and non-target items, leading to an increase in their search sets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Free recall
  • Intrusions
  • Recall latency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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