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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 1986, Vol. 12, No.

1,66-71

Copyright 1986 by the American PsyehologicaJ Association, Inc. 0278-7393/86/$00.75

Optimizing Cue Effectiveness: Recall of 500 and 600 Incidentally Learned Words
Timo Mantyla
University of Umea, Umea, Sweden In three cued recall experiments, prerequisites to optimal memory performance of large amounts of verbal materials were examined. Practically perfect recall of 500 and 600 words was obtained when effective retrieval cues were provided at test. The method used to demonstrate this was to instruct the subjects to define their own retrieval cues by generating properties or features to each word presented. At an unexpected recall test, these self-generated properties were presented as cues, and the subjects were instructed to recall the previously presented items. Cue effectiveness was manipulated by varying amount of retrieval information, type of cues, and retention interval. Distinctiveness and compatibility of retrieval cues are proposed as two necessary prerequisites to perfect recall performance.

The well-known studies of Shepard (1967), Standing (1973), and Standing, Conezio, and Haber (1970) have shown extremely high recognition-memory performances of large amounts of pictorial information. Shepard (1967) presented subjects with 600 pictures for a few seconds each and then asked them which member of the various test pairs had been among the 600 items. More than 95% of the pictures presented previously were correctly recognized. At the time of publication, this result was found surprising by memory researchers, who were attuned to the rather meager ability of humans to remember nonmeaningful material such as nonsense syllables and isolated digits (Loftus, 1982). Although these studies are spectacular, it should, however, be pointed out that good memory performance per se is not an exceptional phenomenon in the memory literature. Mnemonic devices have been known to western culture for thousands of years (Yates, 1966), and several experiments have demonstrated that the capacity of human memory can be increased by using specific mnemonic systems (see, e.g., Bellezza, 1981) or some other forms of recoding procedures (Ericson & Chase, 1981; Miller, 1956). Furthermore, a number of studies have shown that persons with different skills are able to attain good memory performances in domains where they are experts (e.g., Charness, 1979; Chase & Simon, 1973; Egan & Schwartz, 1979), and there is also a variety of demonstrations concerning people with exceptional memories (e.g., Hunt & Love, 1972; Luria, 1968). The study of Shepard (1967) is, however, exceptional in the sense that good recognition memory performance was obtained in spite of the fact that (a) a large amount of information was presented on a single trial, (b) the subjects were not experts, and (c) no specific mnemonic systems were used. Although the data This study was supported by a grant from the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The author is grateful to L.-G. Nilsson for comments and criticism throughout the course of this work and to H. Roediger, R. Crowder, and G. Loftus for their reviews of an earlier version of this article. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to T. Mantyla, Department of Psychology, University of Umea, Radhusesplanaden 2, S-90247 Umea, Sweden.
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for pictorial materials in the study of Shepard (1967) are the most commonly cited ones, it should be observed that relatively high levels of recognition were obtained for large amounts of verbal materials as well. Corresponding studies reporting high recall, in contrast to recognition, of a large number of words are, however, practically nonexistent. To the best of my knowledge, the only exception in this respect is the study presented by Wallace, Turner, and Perkins (1957). In this study, subjects learned lists of words by forming a mental image connecting the members of each pair. Subjects began with lists of 25 pairs and worked up to through lists of 50, 75, 100, 300, 500 and finally to lists of 700 pairs of words. Following a single presentation, recall of one of the members of each pair was cued with the other member of that pair, resulting in nearly perfect performance for all lists. However, in a recent study, Senter, Richter, Wilson, and Clements (1982) tried to replicate the results of Wallace et al., but failed in the sense that the two subjects participating in the experiment did not even manage to complete the whole experimental task involving 700 pairs. The subjects obtained recall performance of about 25% and 75%, respectively, for the 350 pairs they managed to go through during study. Thus, the conclusion to be drawn on the basis of the Senter et al. study is that there are no reliable data reporting near perfect recall of large sets of words. The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether good recall performance of a large number of words can be obtained under conditions where subjects are not instructed to use mnemonic devices. Thus, the subjects of the present study had no previous experience of memory experiments and, in addition, the three experiments to be reported here were carried out under incidental learning conditions. The aim was to have subjects process words in such a way as to produce good retrieval cues. In order to demonstrate high levels of recall, two characteristics of cue effectiveness were conceived as prerequisites to good memory performance. First, in order to be effective, a retrieval cue has to be compatible with the memory trace in the sense of describing some of the features or attributes (Underwood, 1969) that constitute the functional information encoded (Tulving & Thompson, 1973). An underlying assumption of this notion is

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that the meaning of a word is not a fixed entity but a function of the context of the task and the rememberer's previous knowledge. If a word is encoded according to some specific meaning, then, those retrieval cues that represent this meaning of the word are the most effective ones, that is, they represent a compatible description of the functional information. Second, distinctiveness of retrieval cues was conceived as another prerequisite to good recall performance. That is, in order to optimize cue effectiveness, the number of target items subsumed by a retrieval cue should be minimized. In line with the cue-overload theory (e.g., Watkins & Watkins, 1975), the probability of obtaining effective retrieval cues was expected to increase as a function of the number of retrieval cues provided, that is, additional retrieval cues were assumed to aid recall over a single cue. Distinctiveness, however, was not denned in an absolute sense, but rather relative to some context or particular background (e.g., Jacoby & Craik, 1979) and to the rememberer's specific knowledge base. If a retrieval cue is distinctive in the sense that it represents features of the information encoded that differentiate this specific encoding from preexperimental encodings (Eysenck, 1979), then good recall would be expected. The two characteristics of cue effectiveness, originating from the encoding specificity principle (Tulving & Thompson, 1973) and from the levels of processing framework (e.g., Lockhart, Craik, & Jacoby, 1976), were proposed as prerequisites to good recall performance. If both compatible and distinctive retrieval cues are constructed and later presented at test, good recall of a large number of words would be expected. According to this perspective, the main practical problem is construction of retrieval cues that fulfill these prerequisites. However, the effectiveness of retrieval cues depends on a combination of several factors, and an experimenter cannot determine a priori the most compatible and distinctive retrieval cues. Only the learner knows to what aspects of the information presented he or she attends and what are the most distinctive properties of that information. If a subject is instructed to describe a word to be remembered according to his or her idiosyncratic associations, then this selfgenerated description should serve as a very effective retrieval cue. Hence, an excellent experimental situation for obtaining high levels of recall should be one where the subjects are allowed to produce their own retrieval cues. Mantyla and Nilsson (1983) instructed a group of subjects to write down three properties which according to the subject's own experience described the meaning of each word presented. During an unexpected recall test given later, subjects were presented with their own sets of descriptions in a random order and were instructed to recall the words presented previously by using these self-generated descriptions as retrieval cues. The performance level was remarkably high; on the average, more than 96% of a 30-word list was correctly recalled. The Mantyla and Nilsson (1983) study also showed that neither the mere generation of properties by itself nor the general cuing power of the selfgenerated properties given to other subjects accounted for the high recall level. Instead, a distinctive and compatible match between encoded traces and cues seemed to determine the effectiveness of the descriptions as retrieval cues. The essence of the experimental procedure used here was identical to that in the Mantyla & Nilsson (1983) study. That is, subjects were instructed to generate properties to each presented

item, and at test, these self-generated properties were given as cues. In addition, the subjects were instructed to generate either one or three properties for each presented word. Best recall performance of a large number of words was expected to be obtained when sets of three self-generated properties were provided at test. Finally, the retention interval was manipulated within subjects: Tests were given immediately, after 1 day, after 2 days, and after 7 days. The manipulation of retention interval was considered in part a control for the possibility that the recall performance could be explained in terms of the general cuing power of the properties generated by the subjects. Namely, if the properties generated at study were such good descriptions that they would enable the construction of the correct word at test without any preceding study, then the recall level should not decrease as a function of increasing retention interval.

Experiment 1 Method
Subjects. Four undergraduate students at the University of Umea served on a voluntary basis. None of the subjects had any previous experience in memory experiments. They were paid the equivalent of $4 per hour for their participation. Materials. The information to be remembered consisted of 504 randomly selected Swedish nouns (Allen, 1970) with the only restriction being that no synonyms were included. The words were also randomly divided into six sublists of 84 items each. Procedure. The subjects participated in the experiment for three consecutive days. Two sublists of 84 words were presented on each of the 3 days. The subjects were tested in groups of two persons, and the order of sublists was randomized across each pair of subjects. On the first day, the subjects were instructed to generate one property to each of the 84 items of the first sublist and three properties to each of the 84 items of the second sublist. That is, the subjects were instructed to generate one or three words that according to subjects' own experience constituted an appropriate description of the target item. Three words (banana, freedom, and tree) were given as practice to determine if each subject understood instructions. The subjects were not informed of the subsequent recall test. The items were displayed on a television monitor, driven by a Luxor ABC/80 microcomputer, at a rate of 20 s per item. The subjects were asked to write down each property word in a booklet with one and three words, respectively, on each page. The subjects were also instructed to avoid such properties for which the item to be remembered was one component (e.g., primadonna as a property of madonna) or for which the property was a component of the item (e.g., Donna). On the third day, immediately after the presentation of the final sublist, each subject was presented with 252 randomly selected pages of the booklet, that is, 42 pages with one and three self-generated properties, respectively, from each of the three days. The subjects were not informed as to whether a certain property or a set of properties was generated during the first, second, or third day. The subjects were instructed to recall the words to which they had generated the properties by writing down each word on the appropriate page of the booklet. The order of presentation of test cues was random and different for each subject. Recall rate was subject paced, and the test phase took about 90 min. After the recall test, the subjects were asked if they were interested in participating in another experiment one week later. Thus, the subjects were not informed of the final recall test where the remaining 252 cues were presented. At this test the subjects were again instructed to recall the appropriate words by using their own properties as retrieval cues.

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Results and Discussion

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The recall scores, expressed as mean proportions of words correctly recalled, are based on a strict scoring. Namely, with the exception of the plural and definite form, only those responses that were identical to the corresponding target word were accepted as correct. Furthermore, only those properties that did not, in some form, include the original item were accepted as proper retrieval cues. For example, if the word Donna was given as a property to the presented item madonna, the response of this cue was omitted. The mean percentage omitted responses was, however, only about 5%. Furthermore, although the second recall test included all the remaining 252 items, only the recall performance of the words presented during the third day was calculated, that is, the interval between study and test was exactly 1 week. (The differences in performance between these 3 days were, however, not significant). The individual recall scores were first transformed by using an arc sin transformation (Kirk, 1968) and then subjected to a 2 X 4 analysis of variance (ANOVA) with number of properties (one vs. three) and retention interval (immediate, 1 day, 2 days, and 7 days) as within-subjects factors. The ANOVA yielded significant main effects of number of properties, F\l, 3) = 221.53, MSe = 1.778, p < .01, and retention interval, F\\ 9) = 4.58, MSe = .244, p < .05. The interaction between these two variables did not reach statistical significance. The mean proportions of words correctly recalled are presented in Table 1. As can be seen in Table 1, high levels of recall were obtained when three self-generated properties were presented as retrieval cues immediately after the generation phase. The data indicate also that the level of recall is directly related to the amount of retrieval information provided. Three properties produced nearly 40% higher recall level than one property as a cue. The manipulation of retention interval was conceived as a control for the possibility that the recall performance could be explained in terms of the self-generated properties per se. The results of the present study indicate that the high recall level cannot be explained as totally due to confabulation, because the recall performance decreased approximately 30% when the retention interval increased from immediate to 7 days. However, about 60% of the items were correctly recalled when three properties were presented 1 week later. Thus, there is a possibility that the properties corresponding to these items were such powerful descriptions that correct recall was obtained due to guessing. If so, the actual cuing power of the self-generated properties is only about 30% in the immediate-recall condition. Thus, it could be argued that the high recall performance demonstrated could be obtained by merely presenting the properties without any preceding study phase. Experiment 2 The purpose of the second experiment was, first, to rule out this alternative explanation by providing a baseline performance against which the obtained recall levels could be evaluated, and second, to replicate the findings of Experiment 1. In one condition of the experiment, subjects were presented with 504 words with the instructions to generate their own properties, and then at an unexpected test, subjects were presented

Table 1 Mean Proportion of Words Correctly Recalled as a Function of Number of Properties and Retention Interval
Retention interval Condition 3 properties 1 property Immediate .915 .534 1 day .784 ,465 2 days .710 .312 7 days .602 .262

with their own or another person's properties as retrieval cues. Because self-generated properties were assumed to be the best descriptions of the information encoded, it was expected that self-generated properties as retrieval cues would produce significantly higher levels of recall than properties generated by someone else. Furthermore, in another condition, subjects were presented with properties generated by other subjects and were instructed to construct the target items without any preceding study. Thus, the purpose of this condition was to examine if the properties generated were such powerful descriptions of the target items that good performance could be obtained by merely presenting the properties.

Method
Subjects and design. Sixteen undergraduate students at the University of Umea participated in the experiment. They were paid the equivalent of %4 per hour for their participation. The subjects, who had no experience in memory experiments, were randomly assigned to four groups with 2 females and 2 males in each. The design of the experiment consisted of two conditions, study versus no study, with two groups in each. Subjects in the study condition generated, on three consecutive days, either one or three properties to each presented word. During an unexpected recall test, these two groups of subjects were given both their own properties and those generated by someone else as retrieval cues. Thus, number of properties (one vs. three) was manipulated between subjects, whereas type of properties (own vs. someone else's) and retention interval (immediate, I day, 2 days, and 7 days) were manipulated within subjects. Subjects in the no-study condition were not presented with the target items at all: Subjects were either presented with 504 single properties or with sets of 3 properties that the subjects in the study condition had previously generated. Materials. The information to be remembered consisted of those 504 words used in Experiment 1. The words were randomly divided into three sublists of 168 items. Procedure. The two groups of subjects in the study condition were presented with 168 items on each of the three consecutive days. They were tested individually, and the subjects were not informed of the forthcoming recall test. The words were displayed on a monitor of a computer terminal (Digital/VT220 driven by PDP 11/44), and the subjects were instructed to type their properties by means of the keyboard of the terminal. All the subjects had some previous experience in typing. Three words were given as practice to determine whether the subjects understood instructions and how to use the keyboard. The order of sublists was random for each subject. The presentation rate was subject-paced, and each of the three study sessions took about 40 or 90 min when one or three properties, respectively, were generated to each of the 504 words. On the third day, immediately after presentation of the final sublist, the subjects were presented with 84 single properties or 84 sets of 3 properties from each of the 3 days. An equal number of these 3 X 84 cues consisted of subjects' own properties and of those generated by other subjects in the

OPTIMIZING CUE study condition. The properties, or the sets of properties, were displayed on the monitor of the terminal, and the order of presentation was random. The subjects were instructed to recall the corresponding target words by using the keyboard of the terminal. After the recall test, the two groups of subjects in the study condition were asked if they were interested in participating in another experiment 1 week later. Thus, the subjects were not informed of the final recall test where the remaining 252 properties or sets of three properties were given, and the subjects were instructed to recall the appropriate words by using their own and someone else's properties as retrieval cues. The two groups of subjects in the no-study condition were given either the 504 single properties or the 504 sets of 3 properties that the subjects in the study condition had previously generated. The subjects were informed that the properties to be presented constituted descriptions of words generated by some other subject. They were also told that each property or a set of 3 properties described a single noun. As in the study condition, the properties were presented by means of a computer terminal, and the subjects used the keyboard of the terminal for their responses. Presentation rate was subject-paced, and the test took about 90 min.

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Table 2 Mean Proportion of Words Correctly Recalled as a Function of Type of Properties. Number of Properties, and Retention Interval Retention interval Condition 3 properties Self-generated Someone else's 1 property Self-generated Someone else's Immediate .911 .548 .607 .113 1 day .726 .423 .421 .112 2 days .654 .435 .305 .089 7 days ,649 ,428 .047 ,207 ,062 No study .174

Results and Discussion


The recall scores are based on the same scoring criterion as in Experiment 1. The data of the two conditions, that is, study vs. no study, were analyzed separately. When one or three properties were presented as cues without any preceding study phase, the mean proportions of correctly generated target words were .047 and . 174, respectively. Thus, these data indicate that the high degrees of recall obtained in Experiment 1 clearly result from retention and cannot be explained in terms of the general cuing power of the properties per se in generating correct guesses. The recall performance of the subjects in the study condition is presented in Table 2. These data are similar to those of Experiment 1 in the sense that very good recall performance was obtained when three self-generated properties were presented as cues immediately after study. However, the present study also demonstrated that self-generated retrieval cues were much more effective than those generated by someone else. As can be seen in Table 2, the difference in immediate recall between self-generated and others1 is more than 35% when three properties were presented, and nearly 50% when only one property was presented as a cue. Thus, even when the subjects had been presented with the target items during study, the effectiveness of the properties generated by another person as retrieval cues was clearly lower than that of the self-generated properties. Furthermore, the data indicated that forgetting to self-generated retrieval cues was greater than to those generated by someone else. The mean recall performance decreased as a function of retention interval approximately 30% when the subjects were presented with their own properties. However, when someone else's properties were presented as cues, a smaller decrease in performance was observed (12% for 3 cues, 5% for I cue). Thus, the data indicate that self-generated properties are powerful cues, but their effectiveness seems to depend on contextual factors. When a cue is presented immediately after study, the meaning of that cue is represented in the same sense as when the cue was generated, namely, the functional cue is a compatible description of the information encoded. However, at a delayed test, the meaning of the same nominal cue can be represented differently due to the fact that the internal and/or external context is different.

The recall scores of the subjects in the study conditions were arc sin transformed (Kirk, 1968) and subjected to a 2 X 2 X 4 ANOVA with number of properties as a between-subjects factor and type of properties and retention interval as within-subjects factors. The ANOVA yielded significant main effects of number of cues, F{\, 6) = 24.30, MSe ^ 2.844, p < .01, type of cues, FX\, 6) = 58.85, MS< = 1.921, p < .01, and retention interval, F{3, 18) = 26.15, MSt = .235, p < .01. A significant interaction effect between retention interval and type of cues was also obt a i n e d , ^ , l8) = 21.51,MS e = .102, p<. 01. No other effects reached statistical significance. Taken together, the data of the present experiment indicate that the high degrees of recall obtained here and in the previous experiment cannot be explained in terms of the general cuing power of the properties generated. It was also shown that the self-generated retrieval cues, in contrast to those generated by someone else, are the best cues.

Experiment 3
The purpose of the third experiment was to replicate Experiments 1 and 2 by presenting a still larger number of words. In contrast to the previous experiments, 600 words were presented in a single study session, and at the unexpected recall test immediately following the generation phase, the subjects were instructed to recall all the items presented at study. Thus, the proportions of recall were based on the total number of words to be remembered, and not on small subsets of items as in the previous experiments. Furthermore, distinctiveness of retrieval cues was manipulated between subjects by instructing the subjects to generate either one or three properties to each presented word.

Method
Subjects. Eight undergraduate students at the University of Umea participated in the experiment on a voluntary basis. None of the subjects had any prior experience in memory experiments. They were paid the equivalent of $4 per hour for their participation. Materials. The information to be remembered consisted of 600 randomly selected nouns including those 504 items used in Experiments 1 and 2. The 600 words were randomly assigned to four sublists of 150 words each. Procedure. The subjects were informed of the nature of the generation phase including the fact that the experiment would take about 6 or 7 hr

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and that the task was relatively demanding. However, the subjects were not informed of the forthcoming recall test. The subjects were randomly divided into two groups with 2 females and 2 males in each. The items were displayed on a television monitor, by means of a Luxor ABC/80 microcomputer, at a rate of 20 s per word. The subjects were instructed to generate either one or three properties to each word presented, and to write down their properties in a booklet with a single property or a set of three properties on each page. The total of 600 items was presented in sublists of 150 words with a rest period of 5-10 min following each sublist. Thus, the generation phase took about 4.5 hr including the rest periods. At the unexpected recall test, the subjects were presented with their self-generated properties and were instructed to recall the 600 words to which they had generated the properties now being presented. The order of the presentation was random and unique for each subject. The recall rate was subject-paced and the test phase took approximately 2 hr.

Table 3 Recall Performance as a Function of Number of Properties Subject Condition 3 properties 1 property 1 .932 .635 2 .872 .692 3 .900 .623 4 .915 .515 M .905 .616

Results and Discussion


The recall scores are based on the same scoring criterion as in Experiments 1 and 2. As can be seen in Table 3, the recall performance was found to be extremely high when three self-generated properties were presented as retrieval cues. The mean percentage of correctly recalled words was more than 90%. The corresponding recall performance was about 62% when one self-generated property was presented as a cue. As demonstrated by a / test, this difference in performance was statistically significant, f(6) = 4.95, SE = A 19, p < .01. Thus, the data presented here have again demonstrated good recall performance of a large number of words. Even though the experiment was very demanding, that is, it took almost 7 hr and the subjects were required to recall all of the 600 words, more than 90% of these items were correctly recalled in the three cues condition, and surprisingly high degrees of recall were obtained even in the single cue condition where such good performance was not even expected.

General Discussion
The main purpose of the present study was to demonstrate that good recall performance of a large number of words, encountered on a single trial, can be obtained even when no specific mnemonic devices are used. Cue effectiveness was considered as a prerequisite to good recall performance: In order to be effective, a retrieval cue has to represent a compatible and distinctive description of the information encoded. These two characteristics of cue effectiveness, that is, compatibility and distinctiveness, were defined relative to the rememberer's previous knowledge and the specific context in which the information to be remembered was encountered. The present study demonstrated that the presentation of sets of three self-generated properties as retrieval cues immediately after the study phase resulted in correct recall for more than 90% of the target items. The effect of the self-generated cues declined, however, as a function of increasing retention interval. This decrease in performance reflects a loss in compatibility between the functional cue and the information encoded due to the different contextual factors of the delayed test. This notion implies that good delayed recall could be obtained if the original encoding context somehow could be reinstated during testing. Reddy and Bellezza (1983) have demonstrated that the level of recall is directly related to the degree to which the contextual

information produced during encoding is reinstated. They used a method where the overt verbalization produced by the subjects themselves during the study of a list of words was recorded. At recall, one group of subjects was given transcripts of their study vocalizations, and a second group of subjects was given transcripts of some other subject's vocalizations. The results showed that presence of cues vocalized by the subjects during presentation facilitated recall. More than 90% of a 40-item list was correctly recalled. However, when a different encoding context (someone else's utterances) was presented at recall, then only about 36% of the items were correctly recalled. The results of the present study also demonstrated that selfgenerated properties were more effective than those generated by someone else. Thus, the method used here enables subjects to use their own idiosyncratic and well differentiated representations of the information to be remembered in order to construct effective retrieval cues. As experts, for example, in chess or bridge can demonstrate exceptional memory performances in domains of their expertise, the subjects of the present study, as "experts" of their own lives, were able to use their rich and idiosyncratic knowledge base in order to construct effective retrieval cues and, hence, to demonstrate extremely high degrees of recall. As a concluding remark, it should be pointed out that although extremely high degrees of recall were obtained in the present study, the paradigm used here is not proposed as the optimal method for obtaining high recall performances. For example, due to the fact that the subjects were instructed to verbalize their properties by writing them down, a number of distinctive properties of the information to be remembered were probably excluded. The present study, however, has shown that by fulfilling at least some of the necessary prerequisites, surprisingly high degrees of recall can be obtained. The main focus of the present study was an important but often neglected component of the "theorist's tetrahedron" (Jenkins, 1979)the rememberer. In most traditional memory experiments, the subjects are instructed and required to process information according to certain rules and restrictions defined by the experimenter. These experiments have produced valuable pieces of knowledge, but it can still be argued that our understanding of memory and remembering can be extended by instructing and encouraging subjects to process information according to their own cognitive structures. Especially in situations where the information to be remembered has an abstract/symbolic character, the rememberer's knowledge and specific skills are natural and powerful resources.

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