Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Role of Serial Order in the Impact of Talker Variability on Short-Term Memory: Testing a Perceptual Organization-Based Account

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Role of Serial Order in the Impact of Talker Variability on Short-Term Memory: Testing a Perceptual Organization-Based Account

Article excerpt

Abstract In two experiments, we examined the impact of the degree of match between sequential auditory perceptual organization processes and the demands of a short-term memory task (memory for order vs. item information). When a spoken sequence of digits was presented so as to promote its perceptual partitioning into two distinct streams by conveying it in alternating female (F) and male (M) voices (FMFMFMFM)-thereby disturbing the perception of true temporal order-recall of item order was greatly impaired (as compared to recall of item identity). Moreover, an order error type consistent with the formation of voice-based streams was committed more quickly in the alternating-voice condition (Exp. 1). In contrast, when the perceptual organization of the sequence mapped well onto an optimal two-group serial rehearsal strategy-by presenting the two voices in discrete clusters (FFFFMMMM)-order, but not item, recall was enhanced (Exp. 2). The results are consistent with the view that the degree of compatibility between perceptual and deliberate sequencing processes is a key determinant of serial short-term memory performance. Alternative accounts of talker variability effects in short-term memory, based on the concept of a dedicated phonological short-term store and a capacity-limited focus of attention, are also reviewed.

Keywords Short term memory . Talker variability . Serial recall . Perceptual organization

The capacity to retain and reproduce the serial order of a sequence of verbal stimuli over the short term has long commanded interest, on the grounds that such a capacity is implicated in fundamental activities such as speech comprehension and language acquisition (e.g., Baddeley, Gathercole, & Papagno, 1998). The present article is concerned with a largely neglected phenomenon whereby serial short-term memory (STM) for spoken sequences is markedly poorer when successive items are spoken in different voices-for instance, alternating female (F) and male (M) voices-as compared to the standard, single-voice method of presentation (e.g., Goldinger, Pisoni, & Logan, 1991; Greene, 1991; Hughes, Marsh, & Jones, 2009; Martin, Mullennix, Pisoni, & Summers, 1989). Recent evidence has suggested that alternating voices incur a cost because the sequence is obligatorily organized perceptually into streams defined by voice, such that there is a conflict between the order of items as perceived and the requirement to reproduce the items according to their true temporal order (Hughes et al., 2009). Here we test a key prediction of this perceptual organizationbased account: Given the same list, a task that demands the retention of item order should be impaired by voice alternation to a greater extent than a task that requires the retention of item information (without respect to order).

The classic test of verbal serial STM involves presenting a list of familiar verbal items in an unfamiliar order (e.g., random permutations of the digits 1-8) and, following the last item, requiring the participant to reproduce either the entire sequence (serial recall-e.g., Conrad, 1964) or part of the sequence in response to a probe (e.g., "which item followed item x?"; probed order recall-e.g., Murdock, 1968). A standard feature of studies of serial STM for spoken material is that each item in the list is presented in the same voice. Whilst this may be convenient experimentally, the near ubiquity of this methodological feature tends to obscure the possibility that the singularity of voice plays a key role in auditory-verbal serial STM. Indeed, a handful of studies have demonstrated that when successive items are presented in different voices, serial recall is impaired appreciably (Goldinger et al., 1991; Greene, 1991; Hughes et al., 2009; Martin et al., 1989; Nygaard, Sommers, & Pisoni, 1995). For example, when a male and female voice are alternated, serial recall of digit lists is far poorer than when one of the voices delivers the entire list (Greene, 1991; Hughes et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.