Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Local Temporal Distinctiveness Does Not Benefit Auditory Verbal and Spatial Serial Recall

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Local Temporal Distinctiveness Does Not Benefit Auditory Verbal and Spatial Serial Recall

Article excerpt

In the present study, we examined the role of randomly arranged temporal intervals preceding and following items (pre- and postitem intervals, respectively) in auditory verbal and spatial recall tasks. The duration of the pre- and postitem intervals did not affect serial recall performance. This finding calls into question (1) the suggestion that the interval following an item permits the consolidation of information in memory, even in a relatively demanding spatial task, and (2) the prediction that temporal distinctiveness should improve performance. The latter was explored further by showing that in contrast to our empirical data, a relative temporal distinctiveness model produced significant increases in recall performance when pre- and postitem intervals increased. The results are discussed with regard to recent studies revisiting the role of temporal isolation in short-term serial memory.

(ProQuest Information and Learning: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

The ability to process order information is an essential aspect of human cognition (see, e.g., Lashley, 1951) and a specific function of short-term memory (e.g., Ebbinghaus, 1885). That events are defined by their temporal context is not controversial, but the contribution of time per se to serial memory remains unclear. Current theories of serial memory can be separated into two broad categories: theories in which temporal information is viewed as an intrinsic part of the representation of information (time-based models; see, e.g., Brown, Preece, & Hulme, 2000; Glenberg & Swanson, 1986; Neath, 1993) and theories in which time is viewed merely as an opportunity to consolidate or rehearse information in memory and in which forgetting results from interference (event-based theories; see, e.g., Farrell & Lewandowsky, 2002; Lewandowsky & Murdock, 1989; Naime, 1990; Neath, 2000).

One general assumption of temporal distinctiveness theories (e.g., Glenberg & Swanson, 1986; Neath & Crowder, 1990,1996) and more recent time-based models of immediate memory is that the probability of recalling an item increases when this item is temporally isolated within the list. Many studies (e.g., Glenberg & Swanson, 1986; Neath, 1993) have measured the temporal distinctiveness of an item as the ratio between the interval separating that item from the previous item (interpresentation interval, or IPI) and the time interval between that item and the time of recall (retention interval). This ratio rule accounts for recall accuracy reasonably well in experiments in which IPI values are manipulated across lists in a predictable fashion (e.g., Bjork & Whitten, 1974; Neath & Crowder, 1990, 1996), but the effect of temporal distinctiveness has been questioned in a number of studies in which unpredictable interitem intervals have been used (e.g., Lewandowsky, Brown, Wright, & Nimmo, 2006; Nimmo & Lewandowsky, 2005, in press).

The notion that temporal isolation makes items stand out and increases their probability of being recalled is present in many recent time-based models of immediate memory, such as temporal oscillator models (e.g., Brown et al., 2000; Burgess & Hitch, 1999) or the scale invariant memory, perception, and learning (SIMPLE) model (Brown, Neath, & Chater, 2006). In contrast to the ratio rule of early temporal distinctiveness theories, recent time-based models (e.g., SIMPLE) are relative models, in the sense that they assess the temporal confusability of an item with a neighboring item relative to its confusability with any other item in the list.1 In conclusion, temporal distinctiveness can be defined locally (e.g., Glenberg & Swanson, 1986; Neath & Crowder, 1990, 1996) or globally (Brown et al., 2005).

Interestingly, the local impact of time on serial memory does not necessarily reflect the impact of time per se but, possibly, the opportunity to encode or consolidate information in memory. …

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