Ensor, T. M., Guitard, D., Bireta, T. J., Hockley, W. E., & Surprenant, A. M. (2020). The list-length effect occurs in cued recall with the retroactive design but not the proactive design. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie expérimentale, 74(1), 12–24. https://doi.org/10.1037/cep0000187
An ongoing debate in the memory literature concerns whether the list-length effect (better memory for short lists compared with long lists) exists in item recognition (Annis, Lenes, Westfall, Criss, & Malmberg, 2015; Dennis, Lee, & Kinnell, 2008). This debate was initiated when Dennis and Humphreys (2001) showed that, when confounds present in earlier list-length experiments were controlled, the list-length effect disappeared. The issue has yet to be settled. Interestingly, the same confounds present in recognition experiments exist in cued-recall experiments. Here, we implemented Dennis and Humphreys’ (2001) methodological controls to test for the list-length effect in cued recall. In Experiment 1, we found a robust list-length effect when start-of-study items from the long list were tested. However, no list-length effect was found in Experiments 2 and 3 when end-of-study items from the long list were tested. These results are consistent with the view that cued recall is susceptible to retroactive interference but not proactive interference, a position supported by early interference work (e.g., Lindauer, 1968; Melton & von Lackum, 1941).