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Human order memory: insights from the relative-order task Open Access


Other title
relative order judgement
order memory
serial recall
episodic memory
human memory
congruity effect
comparative judgement
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Supervisor and department
Caplan,Jeremy (Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Rice,Sally (Linguistics)
Caplan,Jeremy (Psychology)
Mou,Weimin (Psychology)
Brown,Norman (Psychology)
Bodner,Glen (Psychology)
Department of Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
In our daily activities, whether it is to remember a phone number, a recipe or a movie plot, remembering order information is crucial. The most common way to study order memory is serial recall, where participants are asked to recall a study list in the order that the list was presented. An alternative approach is the relative order task, where participants are given two items from a study list and asked to judge which one came earlier or later. In judgements of temporal order in short lists, a congruity effect is found: asking ``which item came earlier'' versus ``which item came later'' reverses search direction. The finding of a congruity effect in short lists led to a series of questions of whether the same congruity effect could be generalized to list of different types and whether behaviour data from relative order judgements could be accounted for by memory theories developed to explain serial-recall data. In this dissertation I report results from a series of studies focusing on the congruity effect beyond short lists and the response time measure, and relating theories of serial recall to theories of comparative judgements. Specifically, those studies report that the congruity effect generalizes to longer lists, the English Alphabet, and grouped lists, as well as the error rate measure. The generality of the congruity effect suggests current versions of order memory models need further assumptions to account for this effect. In addition,we report that grouping effects on relative order judgements are compatible with a positional coding model with two-level hierarchies. The comparison to the effects of grouping on serial recall suggests how relative order judgements and serial recall may share the same cognitive mechanisms. Together, these behavioural results further establish the generality of the congruity effect, bridge order memory theories based on relative order judgement and serial recall data, and set new constraints on future memory model development.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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