Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychological Sciences

First Advisor

Jeffrey D Karpicke

Committee Member 1

James S Nairne

Committee Member 2

Darryl W Schneider

Committee Member 3

Thomas S Redick


A functionalist approach to cognition assumes that people’s minds are tuned to process and remember information that benefits our survival or reproduction (Nairne, 2005). One source of information with potentially high fitness value is things that are alive and animate (Nairne, VanArsdall, Pandeirada, Cogdill, & LeBreton, 2013). The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the effects of using an ancient mnemonic – the method of loci – to examine memory for animate objects. Across four experiments, subjects used the method of loci to remember a list of animate or inanimate objects. I manipulated animacy by using animate or inanimate words (Experiments 1 and 4) or by using animate or inanimate images (Experiments 2, 3, and 4). In Experiment 1, memory for animate and inanimate words was tested in either the method of loci or a pleasantness ratings control condition. Subjects learned a list of words; half of the words were animate and the other half were inanimate. Subjects in both conditions recalled more animate than inanimate words. The animacy effect in the method of loci was smaller relative to the pleasantness condition.