Psychology ETDs

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Memory for visual forms can be assessed in two separate ways. The most common approach is to assess the degree to which a form is accurately remembered. A less common approach is to assess the type and degree of change in form memory. The present experiment investigated the role of a single suggestive label in affecting both accuracy and qualitative change of recognition memory for ambiguous visual forms. Each of 240 subjects was briefly shown a single ambiguous form which represented the geometrical average of the anatomical characteristics of the two animal forms used to construct it. Just prior to observation of the form the subject was either: (1) supplied a suggestive label representing one of the two animal forms used to construct the ambiguous training form, (2) supplied a label chosen to best represent the training form itself, or (3) simply allowed to observe the ambiguous training form. A single-stimulus recognition test was given to subjects either immediately or after a retention interval of 30 minutes or two days. The recognition test stimuli represented various degrees of both animal forms along a single continuum of form, allowing the construction of gradients of recognition memory for the assessment of label effects. Alternative suggestive labels were demonstrated to result in subsequent recognition errors which were compatible with the specific label supplied at the time of observation. Some evidence was found for a shift in recognition gradients following observation without a label as well. In contrast, subjects given a label, chosen to best describe the original training form, demonstrated no systematic preference in their selection of distractors resembling either of the two animal forms from which the training form was composed. The retention interval was not found to have a reliable effect upon performance following any type of label training. The observed shifts in memory were interpreted as being most consistent with an explanation which stressed differences in the initial encoding of form information.

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Henry Carleton Ellis

Second Committee Member

Thomas Patrick Friden

Third Committee Member

Harold D. Delaney



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Psychology Commons