Brewer, D. D., Rinaldi, G., Mogoutov, A., & Valente, T. W. A quantitative review of associative patterns in the recall of persons. (2005). Journal of Social Structure, 6(1) (http://www.cmu.edu/joss/content/articles/volume6/Brewer/index_new.html).
The order in which people freely recall a set of words, persons’ names, or other items indicates how they organize those items in memory. An individual’s cognitive structure of the persons with whom he or she has some particular relation can be described by noticing how he or she associates from one person to the next during recall. Using improved statistical measurement, we review in detail five studies that systematically examined associative patterns in the recall of persons and evaluate competing hypotheses about the nature of these patterns. Individuals in these studies recalled their acquaintances, coworkers, and friends. Across studies, the results consistently show that persons recalled adjacently or successively are perceived to interact more with each other than those not recalled adjacently. No other factor describes associative patterns as well as this notion of perceived social proximity. These results, along with related research, imply the influence of social networks on memory for persons and suggest a universal feature of human social cognition.