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Image mediators in paired-associate learning : properties of verbal labels and instructions Stanzl, Ingeborg J. F.

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of properties of verbal labels and instructions on paired-associate learning. Predictions concerning the independent effects of associative intra-pair relatedness, instructions, and the directing function of the verbal label were made for the dependent variable. A mediation hypothesis stressing the role of imagery in associative learning and a coding hypothesis stating that "representative" verbal labels may function as conceptual rules, in that they direct stimulus selection and unitary encoding of stimulus and response, guided this work. Unitary imagery instructions, requiring subjects to draw the unitary image, were expected to facilitate the directing function of the verbal label; separate imagery instructions, requiring subjects to draw only the stimulus image, were expected to inhibit it; standard paired-associate (PA) instructions were used as a control condition. Two lists of 18 pairs of incomplete figure-stimulus and concrete noun-response combinations, each, were constructed. Each list was homogeneous, regarding the level of associative intra-pair relatedness, which was either high or low in the respective lists. The same stimulus figures and nouns were used in both lists, but in List 1, the response nouns were dominant associates of the incomplete figures, and in List 2, they were remote associates. Subjects were given one of three sets of instructions to learn either List 1 or List 2. A study-test trial method was employed with one study trial (drawing activity) and two PA recall test trials. The assumption that even originally remote associates would direct coding of incomplete figure stimuli as complete figures was supported. PA recall performance in the unitary imagery group was equal to PA recall performance in the standard PA group. Both groups correctly recalled a significantly greater number of responses than the separate imagery group, as had been hypothesized. Further the hypothesis that PA learning efficacy in List 1 was significantly greater than in List 2 was confirmed. The effect of associative intra-pair related-ness was found to be independent of the effect of the directing, property of the verbal label on unitary encoding of stimulus and response items. The associative property of the verbal label affects unitary image generation because images are more readily available for associatively related pairs than for unrelated ones. The directing property of the verbal label seems to affect the coding process as such, since verbal labels seem to function as conceptual rules for relating the pair items, much as unitary imagery instructions do. The results were interpreted to indicate that each of these factors independently exerts its influence at the acquisition phase of associative learning, because each affects the generation of unitary images which mediate recall of the response at the test trial.

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