Figure 617

The Tulving-Wiseman function, showing in the solid line that there is only a limited relationship between recall and recognition performance (the broken line indicates what would happen if there were no relationship between recall and recognition). Adapted from Tulving and Flexser (1992).

The relationship between recall and recognition is shown in Figure 6.17. The broken line indicates what would be the case if there were no relationship between recall and recognition. The solid line showing the actual weak relationship has been called the "Tulving-Wiseman function".

Flexser and Tulving (1978) provided an explanation of this function based on the encoding specificity principle. According to them, there is some relationship between recall and recognition because both tests are directed at the same memory trace. However, the relationship is weak because the information contained in the recognition test is unrelated to that contained in the recall test.

There are numerous exceptions to the Tulving-Wiseman function. According to Lian et al. (1998), "Contrary to the underlying assumption of the TW [Tulving-Wiseman] function, recognition failure is not the norm in the recognition-failure paradigm; rather, it is the exception." For example, recognition failure is almost non-existent when the item to be recognised, "is sufficiently unfamiliar so that it is essentially a novel item" (Lian et al., 1998, p. 701). In one of the studies by Lian et al, this was achieved by asking American students to learn American-Norwegian name pairs. There was practically no recognition failure in this condition, and "the American-Norwegian group showed a remarkable positive deviation from this [i.e., Tulving-Wiseman] function" (Lian et al., 1998, p. 699).

As we have seen, there are some studies (e.g., Muter, 1978) in which recall was actually superior to recognition. According to the encoding specificity principle, this happens when the information in the recall cue overlaps more than the information in the recognition cue with the information stored in the memory trace. This could explain why, for example, the recall cue "Welsh poet: Dylan_" produced better memory performance than the recognition cue "Thomas" in the study by Muter (1978).


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