Amnesia, rehearsal, and temporal distinctiveness models of recall

Gordon D A Brown, Sergio Della Sala, Jonathan K Foster, Janet I Vousden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Classical amnesia involves selective memory impairment for temporally distant items in free recall (impaired primacy) together with relative preservation of memory for recency items. This abnormal serial position curve is traditionally taken as evidence for a distinction between different memory processes, with amnesia being associated with selectively impaired long-term memory. However recent accounts of normal serial position curves have emphasized the importance of rehearsal processes in giving rise to primacy effects and have suggested that a single temporal distinctiveness mechanism can account for both primacy and recency effects when rehearsal is considered. Here we explore the pattern of strategic rehearsal in a patient with very severe amnesia. When the patient's rehearsal pattern is taken into account, a temporal distinctiveness model can account for the serial position curve in both amnesic and control free recall. The results are taken as consistent with temporal distinctiveness models of free recall, and they motivate an emphasis on rehearsal patterns in understanding amnesic deficits in free recall.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-60
Number of pages5
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Amnesia
  • Brain
  • Cognition Disorders
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Time Factors


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