Memory Systems, Processes, and Tasks: Taxonomic Clarification via Factor Analysis

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2009


The nature of various memory systems was examined using factor analysis. We reanalyzed data from 11 memory tasks previously reported in Mitchell and Bruss (2003). Four well-defined factors emerged, closely resembling episodic and semantic memory and conceptual and perceptual implicit memory, in line with both memory systems and transfer-appropriate processing accounts. To explore taxonomic issues, we ran separate analyses on the implicit tasks. Using a cross-format manipulation (pictures vs. words), we identified 3 prototypical tasks. Word fragment completion and picture fragment identification tasks were "factor pure," tapping perceptual processes uniquely. Category exemplar generation revealed its conceptual nature, yielding both cross-format priming and a picture superiority effect. In contrast, word stem completion and picture naming were more complex, revealing attributes of both processes