Reversing presentation order of semantically related words reverses memory

Carmen E. Westerberg, Vaughn R. Steele, Chad J. Marsolek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm, words (e.g., sour, candy, sugar,...) related to one critical word (e.g., sweet) typically are encoded in descending order of their association with the critical word. When recognition is tested, memory is greater for related words than for critical words, as predicted by extant memory models. Surprisingly, however, memory is not greater for unrelated words (presented in other encoding lists) than for related words, in contrast with predictions from these same models. In two experiments, we tested whether intralist presentation order is responsible for the unexplained results. Word lists were studied in standard or reversed order (ascending order of association to critical words). Subsequent recognition for related words was high when lists were presented in the standard order but very low when lists were presented in reverse. Results indicate that presentation order affects related-word false alarms, providing important new constraints for memory models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-90
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence should be addressed to Carmen E. Westerberg, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, USA. E-mail: Funding for this research was provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, the National Institutes of Health (MH67883), and the Center for Cognitive Sciences in conjunction with the National Institute of Health and Human Development (HD07151) and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota. We thank Doug Nelson and Roddy Roediger for helpful discussions and comments regarding this manuscript, and Alex Jarvis, Josh Miller, Scott Jackson, Christopher Hulme-Lowe, Kim Ahnemann, Luke Kane, and Kelly Ryberg for their assistance with data collection and analyses. Portions of this research were reported at the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, San Francisco (April, 2004).


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