Word abstractness and meaningfulness, and paired-associate learning in children
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Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 4 (1): 81 - 89 (1966)

Research with adults has shown that paired-associate (PA) learning of nouns, with abstractness-concreteness of the words simultaneously varied on both sides of pairs, is facilitated by concreteness, and this effect is greater on the stimulus than on the response side. The problem was investigated further in the present study with fourth-, sixth-, and eighth-grade children. Since concreteness has been found to correlate with meaningfulness (m), data were first obtained on the m of 32 concrete and 32 abstract, high-frequency nouns. At all three grade levels, the m of concrete nouns was higher than that of abstract nouns, and the words significantly retained their m rank across grades. Four comparable versions of a 16-pair list were constructed from 32 of the nouns, each list including 4 pairs of each possible S-R combination, i.e., concrete-concrete, concrete-abstract, abstract-concrete, and abstract-abstract. Groups of Sa were auditorially presented 4 alternating study trials and recall trials with a list. Analysis of the recall scores for Ss from each of three schools showed that recall increased with grade, and that positive effects of concreteness were generally greater on the stimulus than on the response side of pairs. The differential effect favoring stimulus over response concreteness was, however, smaller than in the earlier research with adults, and somewhat inconsistent across schools.
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