Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Schwartz, Steven, 1946-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Human information processing; Cognition


Individual difference variables are believed to play an important role in determining the speed with which various types of information can be accessed from long-term memory (LTM). The present study investigated the role of two such variables: verbal ability and sex. In the first experiment, stimulus word pairs printed on cards were presented to high and low verbal ability subjects of both sexes in three instructional conditions. The subjects were asked to sort the cards into "same" and "different" piles under physical identity (PI), homophone identity (HI), and grammatical category identity (GCI) match instructions. The time required for each subject to sort the deck, as well as the number of errors committed, was recorded. In the second experiment, stimulus word pairs were presented on a computer-driven display screen to high and low verbal ability subjects of both sexes under PI, HI, and taxonomic category identity (TCI) match instructions. The subjects were asked to make same-different judgments by pressing one of two keys marked "same" or "different," respectively, according to the instructions appropriate to the condition. The subjects' reaction times and errors were recorded by the computer. In each experiment, the subjects were instructed to respond as fast and as accurately as possible. In both experiments, high verbals were significantly faster at making HI matches. Although high and low verbals did not significantly differ in the amount of time they required to make GCI matches in the first experiment, low verbals made significantly more errors in performing this task. This suggests that, as a consequence of extreme task difficulty, the true GCI sorting time difference between high and low verbals may have been obscured. In the second experiment, however, when a considerably easier TCI match condition was employed in place of the GCI match task, high verbals quite clearly were faster than low verbals. Inasmuch as both HI and TCI matching clearly require access to long-term memory, the hypothesis that verbal ability is importantly related to the speed with which an individual is able to retrieve information stored in LTM was strongly supported. In addition, high verbals were also faster at making PI word matches in both experiments. This finding suggests either that lexicographically coded information stored in LTM is utilized in such a task, or that verbal ability is also related to the speed with which an individual is able to access information from short-term memory. In neither experiment did males and females differ significantly in the amount of time they required to perform any of the matching tasks employed. This suggests that sex is probably unrelated to the speed with which information stored in LTM can be accessed.


Includes bibliographical references.


v, 63 pages




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