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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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What Do Explanations of the Distinctiveness Effect Need to Explain?

What Do Explanations of the Distinctiveness Effect Need to Explain?

(p.406) (p.407) 18 What Do Explanations of the Distinctiveness Effect Need to Explain?
Distinctiveness and Memory

Endel Tulving

R. Shayna Rosenbaum

Oxford University Press

What do explanations of the distinctiveness effect need to explain? In one sense, the superior memorability of distinctive events needs no explanation at all because, according to intuitive theory, it is obvious. However, the popular framing of the issue can be stated in terms of the superior recall of more-distinctive over less-distinctive stimuli or events. This tradition began with Mary Calkins's (1896) approach to the study of the effects of vividness on memory. Alternatively, the issue can be stated in terms of inferior recall of less-distinctive in comparison with more-distinctive items. This chapter argues that there is nothing especially noteworthy about the memorability — recognition, recall, recollection — of the special (outstanding) items in distinctiveness paradigms and, accordingly, nothing much to be explained. It proposes that what is responsible for poor recall of standard items is something termed camatosis. One phenomenon that can be accounted for in terms of the camatosis hypothesis is the buildup of proactive interference in short-term memory and its release.

Keywords:   distinctiveness effect, superior recall, memory, inferior recall, vividness, recognition, recall, camatosis, proactive interference

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