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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
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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).
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