Strategic search from long-term memory: An examination of semantic and autobiographical recall

Nash Unsworth, Gene Brewer, Gregory J. Spillers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Searching long-term memory is theoretically driven by both directed (search strategies) and random components. In the current study we conducted four experiments evaluating strategic search in semantic and autobiographical memory. Participants were required to generate either exemplars from the category of animals or the names of their friends for several minutes. Self-reported strategies suggested that participants typically relied on visualization strategies for both tasks and were less likely to rely on ordered strategies (e.g., alphabetic search). When participants were instructed to use particular strategies, the visualization strategy resulted in the highest levels of performance and the most efficient search, whereas ordered strategies resulted in the lowest levels of performance and fairly inefficient search. These results are consistent with the notion that retrieval from long-term memory is driven, in part, by search strategies employed by the individual, and that one particularly efficient strategy is to visualize various situational contexts that one has experienced in the past in order to constrain the search and generate the desired information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-699
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Strategic search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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