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Estimating the Frequency of Events From Unnatural Categories

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Conrad, Frederick G., N.R. Brown, and M. Dashen. 2003. "Estimating the Frequency of Events From Unnatural Categories." Memory and Cognition, 31:552-562.

We report two experiments about how people estimate the frequency of event properties when they are explicitly (e.g., spinach-GREEN) and implicitly (e.g., spinach) presented. In Experiment 1, verbal reports indicated that, for explicitly presented properties, participants used several retrieval- and impression-based strategies and were relatively accurate. Implicitly presented properties led to off-target retrieval, which brought to mind more instances of nontarget than of target properties and degraded estimates. A third group estimated the frequency of taxonomic categories (e.g., furniture) much as the explicit property group did, suggesting that people can use properties to organize remembered events. In a second experiment, estimation time patterns underscored the results of Experiment 1 and eliminated reactive verbal reports as an explanation. Off-target retrieval was both ineffective and slow.

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