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Experiment Author: Allan Piavio. Adapted from STEP and used with permission of Brian MacWhinney
Participants are shown pairs of words, either Concrete-Concrete, Abstract-Concrete, Concrete-Abstract, or Abstract-Abstract. They are then supposed to recall the second word of the pair when given the first. This should show that concrete nouns are easier to remember than abstract nouns.
In this experiment participants memorize word pairs. There are two parts to this experiment. In the first, a sequence of 16 word pairs appear with each pair displaying for 3 seconds. In the second part only one word appears at a time along with a dialogue box. Recall the other word from the pair and type it in the dialogue box.
Paivio, A. (1965). Abstractness, imagery, and meaningfulness in paired-associate learning. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 4, 32-38.
Cited Experiment Abstract
This study, concerned with imagery as a possible mediator of verbal associations, developed from prior investigations of the effect of word order on the learning of nouns and modifying adjectives. Lambert and Paivio (1956) found that lists of adjective-noun word groups were learned more easily when the nouns preceded rather than followed the adjectives. While contrary to expectations from English language habits, the finding was consistent with the interpretation that nouns function as conceptual “pegs” for their modifiers. Elaborating on this hypothesis, Paivio (1963) suggested that the efficiency of nouns as stimulus pegs may depend on their capacity to elicit imagery which can mediate recall of associates. In this experiment, noun-noun pairs were used to investigate the influence of word abstractness and imagery. Stimulus and response abstractness were simultaneously varied. It was predicted that the four stimulus-response combinations constructed from concrete and abstract nouns would be learned in the order of concrete-concrete, concrete-abstract, abstract-concrete, and abstract-abstract, in increasing order of difficulty, the predicted superiority of concrete-abstract pairs over abstract-concrete pairs being particularly crucial to the imagery hypothesis.
Works Cited by the Experiment
Epstein, W. The effect of stimulus and response meaningfulness when response availability is equated. J. verb. Learn. verb. Behav., 1963, 2, 242-249.
Epstein, W., and Streib, R. The effect of stimulus meaningfulness and response meaningfulness in the absence of response learning. J. verb. Learn. verb. Behav., 1962, 1, 105-108.
Gorman, A.M. Recognition memory for nouns as a function of abstractness and frequency. J. exp. Psychol., 1961, 61, 23-29.
Goss, A.E., Nodine, C.F., Gregory, B.N., Taub, H.A., and Kennedy, K.E. Stimulus characteristics and percentage of occurrence of response members in paired-associates learning. Psychol. Mongr., 1962, 76, No. 12 (Whole No. 531).
Jenkins, J.J. Comments on Professor Goss's paper. In C.N Cofer (Ed.), Verbal learning and verbal behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961. Pp. 69-75.
Jensen, A.R., and Rohwer, W.D. Verbal mediation in paired-associate and serial learning. J. verb. Learn. verb. Behav., 1963, 1, 346-352.
Kothurkar, V.K. Effect of stimulus-response meaningfulness on paired-associate learning and retention. J. exp. Psychol., 1963, 65, 305-308.
Lambert, W.E. Associational fluency as a function of stimulus abstractness. Canad. J. Psychol., 1955, 9, 103-106.
Lambert, W.E., and Paivio, A. The influence of noun-adjective order on learning. Canad. J. Psychol., 1956, 10, 9-12.
McNemar, Q. Psychological statistics. New York: Wiley, 1962.
Mandler, G., and Campbell, E.H. Effect of variation in associative frequency of stimulus and response members on paired-associate learning. J. exp. Psychol., 1957, 54, 269-273.
Miller, G.A, Galanter, E., and Pribram, K.H. Plans and the structure of behavior. New York: Holt, 1960.
Noble, C.E. An analysis of meaning. Psychol. Rev., 1952, 59, 421-430.
Noble, C.E. Meaningfulness and familiarity. In C.N. Cofer and B.S. Musgrave (Eds.), Verbal behavior and learning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Pp. 76-119.
Nodine, C.F. Stimulus durations and stimulus characteristics in paired-associates learning. J. exp. Psychol., 1963, 66, 100-106.
Paivio, A. Learning of adjective-noun word order and noun abstractness. Canad. J. Psychol., 1963, 17, 370-379.
Paivio, A., and Olver, M. Denotative-generality, imagery, and meaningfulness in paired-associate learning of nouns. Psychon. Sci., 1958, 55, 56-10.
Postman, L. The effects of language habits on the acquisition and retention of verbal associations. J. exp. Psychol., 1962, 64, 7-19.
Saltz, E. Compound stimuli in verbal learning, cognitive and sensory differentiation versus stimulus selection. J. exp. Psychol., 1963, 66.
Staats, A.W. Verbal habit-families, concepts, and the operant conditioning of word classes. Psychol. Rev., 1961, 68, 190-204.
Thorndike, E.L., and Lorge, I. The teachers' word book of 30,000 words. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers Coll., 1944.
Underwood, B.J., and Schulz, R.W. Meaningfulness and verbal learning. Chicago: Lippincott, 1960.
Wallace, W.H., Turner, S.H., and Perkins, C. Preliminary studies of human information storage. Signal Corps Project No. 1320, Institute for Cooperative Research, Univer. of Pennsylvania, 1957.
Wimer, C. An analysis of semantic stimulus factors in paired-associate learning. J. ver. Learn. verb. Behav., 1963, 1, 397-407.
STEP: Mental Imagery and Associative Learning 
STEP: Time Required to Prepare for a Rotated Stimulus 
STEP: Can Imagery be Distinguished from Other Forms of Internal Representation 
STEP: Altering Retrieval Demands Reverses the Picture Superiority Effect 
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