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Structured word-lists as a model of basic schemata: deviations from content and order in a repeated event paradigm

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Repeated events are common in everyday life, but relatively neglected as a topic within memory psychology. In two samples of adults, we investigated memory for repeated, schema-establishing simple events (operationalised as structured word-lists), and the effects of deviations within those events. We focused on the effects of deviations from two core dimensions of schema: content and order. Across three successive word-list events, we established and reinforced a basic list schema by always presenting three content categories in the same order. These expectations were violated in a fourth and final word-list. We measured the effects on memory of both the violating and the schema-establishing lists in
multiple recall attempts over a period of one month. We measured correct recall,
misattribution errors, metacognitive awareness of list-organisation and deviations, and recall organisation. Across all delays and across all word-lists (not only the final one), content changes increased recall, whereas order changes decreased recall. Participants were also more aware of content changes than order changes. These disparate effects suggest that the two types of schema-deviations may have qualitatively different effects on memory for specific instances of a repeated generic event. Cognitive processes underlying memory for typical and exceptional instances of repeated events are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date9 Jan 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 9 Jan 2020


  • Structured word-lists

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Memory on 09/01/2020, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 977 KB, PDF document

    Due to publisher’s copyright restrictions, this document is not freely available to download from this website until: 9/01/21

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