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Hasher, L. (1971). Retention of free recall learning: The whole-part problem. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 90, 8-17.


This experiment was a test of the organization theory assumption that optimal memory units are acquired in the context of an entire list. The acquisition and retention of 30-item free recall lists learned under the Whole and Part methods were compared. The Part lists were learned in two successive halves which were then combined so as to maintain (Blocked) or disrupt (Unblocked) part-based organization units. There were two Whole procedures: standard free recall (Unblocked) and a whole list presented in two parts (Blocked). Retention was tested immediately after learning or 1 wk. later. The results did not support predictions based on organization theory: Learning time was equivalent under all conditions and an overall comparison failed to show differences in recall while internal analyses suggested superior retention for Part. Poorest performance was found in Whole Blocked where a recency deficit effect was also isolated.

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