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Effects on sentence recall of varying age : mean depth, and sentence type. Mitchell, Diana Lee

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects on recall of varying sentence complexity, sentence type, and age of the subjects. The measure of sentence complexity used was Martina and Roberts’ (1966) adaptation of Yngve's (1960) depth. The six sentence types involved were kernel (K), negative (N), passive (P), negative-passive (NP), passive truncated (PT), and negative-passive truncated(NPT). One hundred twenty children, and one hundred twenty adults, were exposed, ten at a time, to an orally-presented example of each sentence type. After hearing the six sentences, the subjects were instructed to write as many as they could recall. Six such trials were effected with each subject. Twelve sets of six sentences each were used such that six sets were of the lesser mean depth (1.29) and six sets were of the greater mean depth (1.71). Sixty subjects of each age were exposed to one of either the six sets of sentences having mean depth 1.29, or to one of the six sets of sentences having mean depth 1.71. The data supported two of three stated hypotheses, that is: i) The likelihood of recall of a sentence is inversely related to the mean depth of that sentence when both children and adults are subjects. ii) More sentences of all types and of either depth are recalled by adults than by children. A third hypothesis that: iii) Kernel sentences are recalled better than non-kernel sentences by children and adults, was not supported by the data. It was found, rather, that both adults and children correctly recalled sentences involving the negative better than those which did not. This finding, although supported by neither psycholinguistic theory nor by the experimental literature, was interesting. It was suggested that a study be performed in an attempt to reproduce these results, and that an investigation be made to determine if a tendency to respond correctly more often to negative stimuli Is a culturally-determined factor. Further, it was suggested that study be made of the significance of the mean depth factor, of transformations, and of their interaction.

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