Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

January 1995


Published in Memory & Cognition 1995, 23 (3), 273-278. Copyright 1995 Psychonomic Society, Inc. Used by permission.


Experimental efforts to meliorate the modality effect have included attempts to make the visual stimulus more distinctive. McDowd and Madigan (1991) failed to find an enhanced recency effect in serial recall when the last item was made more distinct in terms of its color. In an attempt to extend this finding, three experiments were conducted in which visual distinctiveness was manipulated in a different manner, by combining the dimensions of physical size and coloration (i.e., whether the stimuli were solid or outlined in relief). Contrary to previous findings, recency was enhanced when the size and coloration of the last item differed from the other items in the list, regardless of whether the “distinctive” item was larger or smaller than the remaining items. The findings are considered in light of other research that has failed to obtain a similar enhanced recency effect, and their implications for current theories of the modality effect are discussed.