Competitors or Teammates: How Proper Names Influence Each Other

Dec 22, 2017

1 min

Lise Abrams

Current research by Lisa Abrams and Danielle K. Davis of the University of Florida published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science documents how proper names are more difficult to learn and remember than other types of words. Various causes of this difficulty have been proposed to better understand how proper names are represented in memory and the degree to which names compete with each other. In the retrieval of names, some studies show competition, whereas other studies find facilitation. During comprehension, names demonstrate competition by causing a Moses illusion: People erroneously answer invalid questions such as “How many animals did Moses take on the ark?”, failing to detect that Noah is the correct name for the question. Errors in both name retrieval and comprehension are more likely when the correct name and distractor name sound similar, share biographical characteristics, or have some visual resemblance. However, shared visual information has played a competitive role more consistently in name comprehension than retrieval, an asymmetry that remains to be investigated.

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Lise Abrams

Lise Abrams


Lise Abrams is a Professor, Distinguished Teaching Scholar, and Past Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Florida

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