Category-length and category-strength effects using images of scenes

Oliver Baumann*, Joyce M.G. Vromen, Adam C. Boddy, Eloise Crawshaw, Michael S. Humphreys

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
147 Downloads (Pure)


Global matching models have provided an important theoretical framework for recognition memory. Key predictions of this class of models are that (1) increasing the number of occurrences in a study list of some items affects the performance on other items (list-strength effect) and that (2) adding new items results in a deterioration of performance on the other items (list-length effect). Experimental confirmation of these predictions has been difficult, and the results have been inconsistent. A review of the existing literature, however, suggests that robust length and strength effects do occur when sufficiently similar hard-to-label items are used. In an effort to investigate this further, we had participants study lists containing one or more members of visual scene categories. Experiments 1 and 2 replicated and extended previous findings showing that the study of additional category members decreased accuracy, providing confirmation of the category-length effect. Experiment 3 showed that repeating some category members decreased the accuracy of nonrepeated members, providing evidence for a category-strength effect. Experiment 4 eliminated a potential challenge to these results. Taken together, these findings provide robust support for global matching models of recognition memory. The overall list lengths, the category sizes, and the number of repetitions used demonstrated that scene categories are well-suited to testing the fundamental assumptions of global matching models. These include (A) interference from memories for similar items and contexts, (B) nondestructive interference, and (C) that conjunctive information is made available through a matching operation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1234-1247
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


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