Context availability and the recall of abstract and concrete words

Paula J. Schwanenflugel, Carolyn Akin, Wei-Ming Luh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Predictions of an automatic-imagery, strategic-imagery, and context-availability hypothesis of concreteness effects in free recall were examined. In each experiment, recall of abstract and concrete words controlled for rated context availability was compared with the typical situation in which context availability is confounded with imageability. In Experiment 1, a directed intentional-recall task produced concreteness effects in recall. Experiment 2 compared concreteness effects in recall following three orienting tasks: imagery rating, context-availability rating, and a directed intentional-memory task. Concreteness effects in the context-availability-controlled condition were found following the imagery-rating and the directed intentional-memory tasks, but not after the context-availability-rating task. In Experiment 3, subjects reported the strategies that they used to encode the list. Subjects reporting an imagery strategy showed concreteness effects for words controlled for rated context availability, but those not reporting it did not. These results support a strategic-imagery view of concreteness effects in free recall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-104
Number of pages9
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1992 Jan 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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