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Measuring the mnemonic advantage of counter intuitive and counter schematic concepts

Johnson, Claire V.M. and Kelly, S.W. and Bishop, Paul (2010) Measuring the mnemonic advantage of counter intuitive and counter schematic concepts. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 10 (1-2). pp. 109-121. ISSN 1567-7095

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The debate on the value of Boyer's (1994) minimally counter-intuitive (MCI) theory continues to generate considerable theoretical and empirical attention. Although the theory offers an explanation as to why certain cultural texts and narratives are particularly well conveyed and transmitted, amidst society and over time, conflicting evidence remains for any mnemonic advantage of minimally counter-intuitive concepts. In an effort to reconcile these conflicting results, Barrett (2008) has made a comprehensive attempt in presenting a formal system for quantifying counter - intuitiveness including a distinction between counter-intuitive and counter-schematic concepts. The present article uses this system to generate sentences containing different levels of counter-intuitiveness, and tests whether minimally counter-intuitive items show a mnemonic advantage over concepts which are more counter-intuitive or counter schematic. Results indicate that MCI concepts hold a mnemonic advantage over counterschematic and maximally counter-intuitive concepts but only for one-week delayed recall. Interference effects may have masked immediate recall effects. Yes-no recognition after one week delay showed almost 100% accuracy suggesting that availability of retrieval cues is the factor which determines the mnemonic advantage of MCI concepts.