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Brewer, D. D. Constancy of clustering over the course of recall. Paper presented at the 14th International Sunbelt Social Networks Conference, New Orleans, February, 1994. Full paper available at SSRN:

In 1953, Bousfield showed that when subjects are presented with a randomized list of words from several different semantic domains (e.g., birds, occupations, and vegetables), they tend to cluster (mention adjacently) words in recall by domain. He also reported that subjects’ tendency to cluster words by domain decreased over the course of recall to the point where recall was effectively random and not governed by semantic associations. This paper describes a re-examination of clustering over the course of recall. Data were analyzed from one study in which subjects recalled words from homogeneous semantic domains and from three studies in which subjects recalled the names of persons in socially bounded communities. The results indicate no decrease in subjects’ clustering over the course of recall, demonstrating that an underlying cognitive structure influences associative patterns throughout the course of recall.

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