Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Planning and the Survival Processing Effect: An Examination of the Proximate Mechanisms

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Richard Anderson, PhD

Second Advisor

Cynthia Bertelsen, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Howard Casey Cromwell, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Harold Rosenberg, PhD (Committee Member)


In two experiments on incidental learning in memory, survival processing of highly related information (i.e., DRM lists) was compared to two contextually rich encoding scenarios that were equated on several important characteristics and to a pleasantness processing task. Free recall and recognition memory were measured. Results from Experiment 1 indicated that the survival processing effect on true recall existed but was driven by congruity effects. However, a planning effect on false recall existed. That is, the three planning processing tasks produced greater false recall than the pleasantness processing task. The recall results of experiment 2 failed to replicate the recall results from Experiment 1. Regarding the recognition tasks, no survival processing effect in hit rate existed independent of congruity effect, but Experiment 2 demonstrated that hit rate was also affected by the relatedness of the information in the recognition environment. Experiment 2 replicated the planning effect on false alarm rate above the effect of congruity effect that was demonstrated in Experiment 1. The survival processing task did not produce a greater false alarm rate than other processing tasks in Experiment , but did in Experiment 2. Experiment 2 also demonstrated that false alarm rate was affected by the relatedness of the information in the recognition environment. A small survival processing effect on proportion of recognition items correctly categorized was found in Experiment 1, but failed to replicate in Experiment 2. Experiment 2 replicated the finding that when controlling for congruity effects, participants in all groups found it similarly difficult to discriminate between target and lure words on the recognition task. Further, Experiment 2 demonstrated that all groups found it more difficult to discriminate when lures were highly related versus moderately and unrelated. This was qualified by the congruity effect, as well. Both experiments demonstrated that all processing tasks produced similar criterion values. However, Experiment 2 demonstrated that participants in all groups used a more liberal criterion when information in the recognition environment was highly related to the target information than when information in the recognition environment was moderately-related or unrelated. Notably, the measures of the decision characteristics in recognition memory did not indicate any differences between encoding processing tasks.