The Effects of Syntactic Structure on Serial Position in Free Recall
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Ss learned English and nonsense lists structured syntactically at various levels to test the hypothesis that pr1macy effects in free reoa11 are facilitated in relation to the degree of structuring present. The presence of English endings, articles, and punctuation did not differentiate the recall of a "nonsense sentence" from that of a nonsense control list; nor did syntactic ordering of the English-appearing nonsense words facilitate learning speed or primacy in comparison with a scrambled list of the same words. Four forms of each of two English sentences consisted of the original sentence and scramblings of sentence units at three levels of a hierarchical grammar. The increase in primacy effects as a function of syntax for the three most highly structured forms was found to be related to a shift in order of recall, which is, in turn, subject to pre-existing recall habits. Primacy effects in the unstructured scrambling of individual words are attributed to interitem associative clustering.