How do recall requirements affect decision-making in free recall initiation? A linear ballistic accumulator approach

Adam F. Osth, Aimee Reed, Simon Farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Models of free recall describe free recall initiation as a decision-making process in which items compete to be retrieved. Recently, Osth and Farrell (Psychological Review, 126, 578–609, 2019) applied evidence accumulation models to complete RT distributions and serial positions of participants’ first recalls in free recall, which resulted in some novel conclusions about primacy and recency effects. Specifically, the results of the modeling favored an account in which primacy was due to reinstatement of the start-of-the-list, and recency was found to be exponential in shape. In this work, we examine what happens when participants are given alternative recall instructions. Prior work has demonstrated weaker primacy and greater recency when fewer items are required to report (Ward & Tan, Memory & Cognition, 2019), and a key question is whether this change in instructions qualitatively changes the nature of the recall process, or merely changes the parameters of the recall competition. We conducted an experiment where participants studied six- or 12-item lists and were post-cued as to whether to retrieve a single item, or as many items as possible. Subsequently, we applied LBA models with various assumptions about primacy and recency, implemented using hierarchical Bayesian techniques. While greater recency was observed when only one item was required for output, the model selection did not suggest that there were qualitative differences between the two conditions. Specifically, start-of-list reinstatement and exponential recency functions were favored in both conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)968-983
Number of pages16
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date2 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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