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Distinctiveness and Memory$
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R. Reed Hunt and James B. Worthen

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195169669

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195169669.001.0001

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Distinctiveness and Memory: A Comparison of the Social and Cognitive Literatures

Distinctiveness and Memory: A Comparison of the Social and Cognitive Literatures

(p.313) 14 Distinctiveness and Memory: A Comparison of the Social and Cognitive Literatures
Distinctiveness and Memory

Susan Coats

Eliot R. Smith

Oxford University Press

This chapter is concerned with the effects of distinctiveness on explicit memory in social psychology. It draws comparisons between the social and cognitive literatures on the topic of distinctiveness and memory, with the aim of better understanding the extent to which the findings in each area may be applicable to the other. It reviews several prominent lines of research in the social literature, each of which invokes the concept of distinctiveness to explain or describe memory phenomena. The extent to which a stimulus is distinctive depends on its context. In several cases, the critical stimuli may be “distinctive” owing to the prevailing context, and in others the critical stimuli may be “distinctive” owing to incongruity with one's long-term experience. Distinctiveness may be said to encourage specific types of processing of an item, which in turn enhances discrimination of that item at retrieval. Relational processing refers to processing of features common to all stimulus items, whereas item-specific processing refers to the processing of properties of individual items not shared by other items.

Keywords:   distinctiveness, explicit memory, social psychology, discrimination, retrieval, relational processing, item-specific processing, critical stimuli, social literature

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