An experimental investigation of subjective organization in college students and traumatically brain injured individuals

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Towson University. Department of Psychology


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Part-whole or whole-whole overlapping list learning paradigms have been used extensively to study verbal learning and memory for many years. This study compared three theories (organizational theory, frequency theory and list discrimination theory) of overlapping list learning. The first experiments compared the transfer effects with 141 college students using both verbal and non-verbal stimuli. A second experiment assessed transfer effects with TBI survivors who learned verbal stimuli. Experiment 1 replicated the often reported negative transfer phenomenon with overlapping word lists and then compared these results with those obtained when the overlapping lists were symbols. Results indicated negative transfer of performance for the old words relative to new words; new words were recalled better than old words on the second list. However, positive transfer occurred when symbols were used; old symbols were recalled better than new symbols on the second list. The difference between these findings indicates that verbal and visual information may be processed differently in the brain and that subjective organization may occur only with verbal information. Experiment 2 replicated previous research that showed a positive transfer using 60 brain injured individuals in an overlapping word list manipulation. The positive transfer resulted from an inability to subjectively organize information after a traumatic brain injury. The results of both experiments either supported or were consistent with Tulving's (1969) organizational theory.