An observation on the role of context variability in free recall

Document Type


Publication Date



The authors conducted 3 experiments investigating the effect of context variability and word frequency on free recall. Context variability refers to the number of pre-experimental contexts in which a given word is experienced. Both between-subjects and within-subjects manipulations of context variability demonstrated a distinct advantage for low context variability words. Standard word frequency effects were obtained in 2 of the 3 experiments, but the common finding of no word frequency differences in mixed lists of high and low word frequency may depend on the level (low vs. high) of context variability. The authors speculate that the advantage for low context variability items may accrue from better item-to-list context associations or better storage of contextual information as a consequence of the smaller pre-experimental contextual fan that these items possess.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Journal of experimental psychology. Learning, memory, and cognition

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.