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Proximity Analysis and the Structure of Organization in Free Recall

Friendly, Michael L.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research, Cognitive Processes, Individual Differences, Psychological Patterns, Retention (Psychology)


A method for assessing the structure of organization was developed on the basis of the ordinal separation, or proximity, between pairs of items in recall protocols over a series of trials. The proximity measure is based on the assumption, common to all indices of organization, that items which are coded together in subjective memory units will consistently tend to be recalled contiguously in output. Methods of hierarchical cluster analysis are then employed to determine the structure of organization implied by the proximities between items. An experiment was designed to test the sensitivity of the method to differences in organizational structure. Existing data from several studies of part-whole transfer by Ornstein were reanalyzed to assess the explanatory power of the method of proximity analysis. It was concluded that the method of proximity analysis can be useful in attempts to elucidate the relationship between organization and memory. (Author/DG) (179pp.)

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