Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Two concepts, clustering and subjective organization, have figured prominently in theoretical explanations of free recall learning. With lists composed of categorized words (e.g., animals, vegetables, occupations), subjects tend to order recall by categories, which tendency is called clustering. There is much experimental evidence for a relationship between clustering and amount recalled, as recall and clustering have been shown to increase with repeated presentations of the material. Curiously, there is some evidence that the degree of clustering seems to be uncorrelated with recall scores, that is, subjects who cluster strongly do not recall more words than subjects who cluster less strongly (Puff, 1970). There is also experimental evidence that subjects recall more from a categorized list than from a non-categorized list; however, most of these studies have been of the single trial variety.

Subjective organization is a concept developed in connection with multitrial free recall studies with non-categorized lists. Regularities in recall sequences from one trial to the next, particularly in the later stages of practice, define subjective organization. Subjective organization has been found to be strongly related to recall, that is, subjects who show strong organization recall more words than subjects who show "weaker intertrial organization (Tulving, 1962, 1964).

In the present study 30 female college students were exposed to two mixed lists, containing both categorized and non-categorized x^ords for ten trials- Each list consisted of three categories with eight exemplars per category and 12 experimentally unrelated words. The material was presented aurally by means of a stereo tape deck and earphones.

Recall increased across trials in the form of a negatively accelerated exponential function from 36 percent of the list items on the first trial to 72 percent on the tenth trial. A category effect was highly significant for Trial 1, t=8.03, p <0.001 but from Trial 2 onxjard there was no difference in the recall of categorized or non-categorized words. The mean clustering (Adjusted Ratio of Clustering) value rose from .30 on Trial 1 to .66 on Trial 10. A measure of organization, Organization by Pairs of Trials (OPT), increased from 1.4 pairs recalled on Trials 1 and 2 to 5.2 on Trials 9 and 10. Correlations were computed between clustering and recall, organization and recall, and clustering and organization. The results indicated an increase over trials in the correlation coefficient for all three relationships.