The word concreteness effect occurs for positive, but not negative, emotion words in immediate serial recall


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Chi-Shing Tse, Department of Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA (e-mail:


The present study examined the roles of word concreteness and word valence in the immediate serial recall task. Emotion words (e.g. happy) were used to investigate these effects. Participants completed study-test trials with seven-item study lists consisting of positive or negative words with either high or low concreteness (Experiments 1 and 2) and neutral (i.e. non-emotion) words with either high or low concreteness (Experiment 2). For neutral words, the typical word concreteness effect (concrete words are better recalled than abstract words) was replicated. For emotion words, the effect occurred for positive words, but not for negative words. While the word concreteness effect was stronger for neutral words than for negative words, it was not different for the neutral words and the positive words. We conclude that both word valence and word concreteness simultaneously contribute to the item and order retention of emotion words and discuss how Hulme et al.'s (1997) item redintegration account can be modified to explain these findings.