Automatic and directed search processes in solving simple semantic-memory problems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cognitive processes involved in simple semantic-memory problems were investigated in four experiments. On each trial of Experiments 1 and 2, two stimulus words were presented, with the instructions to find a third word (i.e., the solution) that, when coupled with each of the stimuli, would yield two word pairs used in everyday language (e.g., surprise and birthday, for which the solution is party). The results of the two experiments indicated that informing the subject whether the solution constituted the first or the second element in the word pairs facilitated both likelihood and speed of solution attainment. In addition, solution attainment was relatively high for items based on frequently used word pairs (Experiment 1) and for items in which the stimuli appear, in everyday language, in a small number of word pairs (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3, the subjects were required to produce word pairs containing one of the two stimulus words from the items used in Experiment 2. Solution production was facilitated by rehearsing the second stimulus word of the specific item. The conclusion, supported by a post hoc analysis of the results of Experiments 2 and 3 (Experiment 4), was that indirect priming from one stimulus word may facilitate solution production from a searched word. These results are interpreted in terms of automatic and controlled processes, and their relevance to two different models for retrieval from semantic memory is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-626
Number of pages10
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Automatic and directed search processes in solving simple semantic-memory problems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this