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Zacks, R. T., Hasher, L., & Sanft, H. (1982). Automatic encoding of event frequency: Further findings. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 8, 106-116.


The three experiments reported in this article examined the process by which frequency of occurrence information is registered in memory. Based on the hypothesis that this information is encoded automatically, performance on a frequency discrimination task was predicted to be insensitive to a variety of manipulations expected to influence free recall, a task requiring considerable effortful processing and therefore used as a counterpoint to the frequency task in two of the experiments. These expectations were confirmed. Frequency performance did not increase with practice, was unaffected by appropriateness of practice, was not influenced by accuracy of test expectations, and was not hindered by competing demands. Also, no stable individual differences were obtained in discriminating relative frequency, and strategy effects were small. These results conform to criteria of automatic processing. They are also in striking contrast to the free-recall findings. Free-recall performance increased with practice, was affected by appropriateness of practice and accuracy of test expectations, and was hindered by competing demands. Also, stable individual differences were obtained in free recall.

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