An item that stands out (is isolated) from its context is better remembered than an item consistent with the context. This isolation effect cannot be accounted for by increased attention, because it occurs when the isolated item is presented as the first item, or by impoverished memory of nonisolated items, because the isolated item is better remembered than a control list consisting of equally different items. The isolation effect is seldom experimentally or theoretically related to the primacy or the recency effects-that is, the improved performance on the first few and last items, respectively, on the serial position curve. The primacy effect cannot easily be accounted for by rehearsal in short-term memory because it occurs when rehearsal is eliminated. This article suggests that the primacy, the recency, and the isolation effects can be accounted for by experience-dependent synaptic plasticity in neural cells. Neurological empirical data suggest that the threshold that determines whether cells will show long-term potentiation (UP) or long-term depression (LTD) varies as a function of recent postsynaptic activity and that synaptic plasticity is bounded. By implementing an adaptive LTP-LTD threshold in an artificial neural network, the various aspects of the isolation, the primacy, and the recency effects are accounted for, whereas none of these phenomena are accounted for if the threshold is constant. This theory suggests a possible link between the cognitive and the neurological levels.
- Psykologi (exklusive tillämpad psykologi)