Evidence Against Novelty- Gated Encoding in Serial Recall

Klaus Oberauer, Simon Farrell, Christopher Jarrold, Marcel Niklaus

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Novelty-gated encoding is the assumption that events are encoded more strongly into memory when they are more novel in comparison to previously encoded events. It is a core assumption of the SOB model of serial recall (Farrell & Lewandowsky, 2002). We present three experiments testing some predictions from novelty-gated encoding. Experiment 1 shows that the probability of recalling the third item in a list correctly does not depend on whether it is preceded by phonologically similar or dissimilar items. Experiment 2 shows that in lists of items from three classes (nonwords, spatial locations, and abstract drawings) the probability of recalling an item does not depend on whether it is preceded by items from the same or another class. Experiment 3 used a complex-span paradigm varying the phonological similarity of words that are read aloud as distractors in between memory items. Contrary to a prediction from novelty-gated encoding, similar distractors did not impair memory more than dissimilar distractors. The results question the assumption of novelty-gated encoding in serial recall. We discuss alternative explanations for the phenomena that this assumption has previously helped to explain. The present evidence against novelty-gated encoding might point to boundary conditions for the role of prediction error in the acquisition of memories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number207
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2022


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