Lexico-semantic structure and the word-frequency effect in recognition memory

Joseph D. Monaco, L. F. Abbott, Michael J. Kahana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The word-frequency effect (WFE) in recognition memory refers to the finding that more rare words are better recognized than more common words. We demonstrate that a familiarity-discrimination model operating on data from a semantic word-association space yields a robust WFE in data on both hit rates and false-alarm rates. Our modeling results suggest that word frequency is encoded in the semantic structure of language, and that this encoding contributes to the WFE observed in item-recognition experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-213
Number of pages10
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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