ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (9): 1158-1171.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.01158

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 The effect of part-list cues on memory retrieval: The role of inhibition ability

 LIU Tuanli1; BAI Xuejun2   

  1.  (1 School of Education Science, Xinyang Normal University, Xinyang 464000, China) (2 Key Research Base of Humanities and Social Sciences of Ministry of Education, Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300074, China)
  • Received:2016-09-27 Published:2017-09-25 Online:2017-07-14
  • Contact: BAI Xuejun, E-mail: E-mail:E-mail:
  • Supported by:

Abstract:  When people are asked to recall items from a previously studied list and are given a subset of the items on that list as retrieval cues, they often do more poorly at recalling the remaining items on the list than do people asked to recall the items in the absence of such retrieval cues. Such part-list cueing effect has often been attributed to inhibitory executive-control processes that supposedly suppress the non-cue items’ memory representation. According to this account, part-list cueing effect arises as an ‘aftereffect’ of executive-control processes during the presentation of part-list cues. The presence of part-list cues at testing leads to an early covert retrieval of the cue items, and this covert retrieval is assumed to trigger inhibitory processes on the non-cue items, affecting the representation of the non-cues itself and thus lowering their recovery chances. The core functions of executive-control processes include inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. The aim of current study was to further investigate the relationship between individual’s inhibitory executive-control ability and the part-list cueing effect. In this study, undergraduate students with different cognitive inhibitory ability were asked to finish a part-list recall task, and participants’ age, learning experience, and living background etc. were well balanced. In Experiment 1, a color-word Stroop task was carried out to test participants’ inhibitory ability, which can be reflected by the accuracy difference between the incongruent and congruent conditions of the Stroop task. In Experiment 2, participants’ working memory capacity, which is typically reflected by the OSPAN and T-OSPAN scores, was tested by an operation span task. We found typical part-list cueing effect in both experiments, that participants’ memory performance, discrimination, and response bias for target items were worse in the part-list cue condition than in the non-cue condition. The regression analysis showed a negative relationship (b = -2.525) between the amount of part-list cue effect and participants’ cognitive inhibitory ability, with the increasing Stroop effect, the part-list effect reduced. However, a positive correlation was shown between the amount of part-list cue effect and individual’s working memory capacity, indicated by the OSPAN score and T-OSPAN score. Higher the OSPAN and T-OSPAN score is, larger part-list cue effect was observed. The above results indicated that low-Stroop-effect individuals showing stronger part-list cueing effect than high-Stroop-effect individuals, and high-WMC individuals showing more part-list cueing effect than low-WMC individuals. Our findings are consistent with previous studies looking into individual-differences, suggesting a close link between working memory capacity, cognitive inhibitory ability and inhibitory efficiency. In addition, the current results also support the inhibitory executive-control account of part-list cueing effect.

Key words:  part-list cueing effect, working memory capacity, Stroop task, inhibition, individual difference

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