Current Research in WFC
One of the findings of this test is the distinction between performance on high and low frequency words. It is already understood that a distinction exists for word frequency with respect to recall and recognition memory, but this test in particular helped build evidence for this distinction in implicit memory rather than explicit memory alone. For both direct and indirect tests (explicit and implicit, respectively), performance is better for the free recall of high frequency words and better for the recognition of low frequency words. Low frequency words are more distinct and stand out, so when one is presented, it is easier to determine if it has been seen before (i.e. if the item is recognized) because of its distinctiveness in memory. Recall and recognition tests have different performance rates for different types of tests because they involve different levels of processing (LOP). Recall tests require one to generate the information in its entirety, a deeper LOP, while recognition tests require one to determine if a stimulus has been previously presented, a shallow LOP. Research on LOP has further supported the finding that priming effects last longer for WFC than that of other implicit memory tests. WFC performance remains high for words presented in a learning phase of an experiment for up to a week before dropping down to baseline levels, while performance on other tests, such as Artificial Grammar Learning, dropped down after only a few hours.
An interesting finding through the use of this test is that the first letter of a word is particularly important in participants’ ability to correctly determine its identity. One study presented fragments of words with the first letter deleted (e.g. _urse) and found that performance rates were significantly lower than words that had the first letter intact (e.g. p_rse). This may be because the first letter is the first cue for what the word to follow may be.
WFC is a test of the unconscious retention of information and so the majority of the new research associated with this test is geared towards implicit memory. One application of tests such as this one is with patients who have amnesia. When the distinction between explicit and implicit memory was first determined, it was hypothesized that amnesiacs may not have lost all of their memory after all. In fact, when tests that measure implicit memory are administered to people who suffer from amnesia, they show tendencies of responding to stimuli in ways which correlate with information previously presented but not explicitly remembered.
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