Section 26
Chapter 25,925

The role of meaningfulness in paired-associate verbal learning

Mcneely, D.A.; Noble, C.E.

Journal of Experimental Psychology 53(1): 16-22


ISSN/ISBN: 0022-1015
PMID: 13398537
DOI: 10.1037/h0041215
Accession: 025924496

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Certain relationships between performance in verbal learning and the attribute of meaningfulness (m) were investigated. Ninety college students practiced for 20 trials with 18 lists of 10 paired associates representing approximately equal intervals on the m scale. As expected from serial learning research, rate of acquisition was a positive function of m, and the curves showing the percentage of correct responses tended toward positive acceleration with decreasing m value. Difficulty measured by mean total errors was an inverse, monotonic function of m, the rank-order correlation being - 0.988. Variability also decreased with increasing meaningfulness. There were significant differences in performance correlated with pre-experimental ability, as well as a negative relationship between ability and variability. Consistent with a 2d prediction, reactivity to m interacted with ability to learn. A level of practice analysis revealed that the difficulty-meaning relationship was an initial effect which disappeared by Trial 11. Contrary to recent opinion, these findings indicate that the law relating difficulty and meaningfulness for specific S-R connections can be determined by the method of paired associates. Suggestions were offered for further research to specify more clearly the role of "perceptual" and "motor" factors in verbal learning.

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