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Imagery Effects on Recall of Minimally Counterintuitive Concepts

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Much experimental evidence shows that minimally counterintuitive concepts, which violate one intuitive ontological expectation of domain-specific natural kinds, are remembered as well as or better than intuitive concepts with no violations of ontological expectations, and much better than maximally counterintuitive concepts with more than one violation of ontological violations (Barrett and Nyhoff, 2001; Boyer and Ramble, 2001; Atran and Norenzayan, 2004; Gonce et al., 2006). It is also well established that concepts rated as high in imagery, (e.g., apple) are recalled better than concepts that are low in imagery (e.g., justice; see Paivio, 1990). We conducted three studies to test whether imagery levels affected recall rates of intuitive, minimally counterintuitive, and maximally counterintuitive concepts. In study 1, we obtained imagery level ratings for 48 three-word items. In study 2, we used the ratings obtained in study 1 in a 2 × 3 recall task in which imagery (high vs. low) was manipulated along with counterintutiveness (intuitive vs. minimally counterintuitive vs. maximally counterintuitive). High imagery items were recalled significantly better than low imagery items for intuitive and maximally counterintuitive items but not for minimally counterintuitive items. Study 3, replicated the findings from study 2 in a 2 × 2 study using a larger number of intuitive and minimally counterintuitive items. In both studies, High imagery items were recalled significantly better than low imagery items for intuitive but not for minimally counterintuitive items. Thus, minimally counterintuitive concepts appear insulated from imagery effects on recall.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, Webster University, St. Louis, MO 63119, USA; 2: Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA; 3: Cognitive Science, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041, USA


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