Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Phonological Similarity and Orthographic Similarity Affect Probed Serial Recall of Chinese Characters

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Phonological Similarity and Orthographic Similarity Affect Probed Serial Recall of Chinese Characters

Article excerpt

Published online: 24 December 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract The previous literature on working memory (WM) has indicated that verbal materials are dominantly retained in phonological representations, whereas other linguistic information (e.g., orthography, semantics) only contributes to verbal WM minimally, if not negligibly. Although accumulating evidence has suggested that multiple linguistic components jointly support verbal WM, the visual/orthographic contribution has rarely been addressed in alphabetic languages, possibly due to the difficulty of dissociating the effects of word forms from the effects of their pronunciations in relatively shallow orthography. In the present study, we examined whether the orthographic representations of Chinese characters support the retention of verbal materials in this language of deep orthography. In Experiments 1aand2, we independently manipulated the phonological and orthographic similarity of horizontal and vertical characters, respectively, and found that participants' accuracy of probed serial recall was reduced by both similar pronunciations and shared phonetic radicals in the to-be-remembered stimuli. Moreover, Experiment 1b showed that only the effect of phonological, but not that of orthographic, similarity was affected by concurrent articulatory suppression. Taken together, the present results indicate the indispensable contribution of orthographic representations to verbal WM of Chinese characters, and suggest that the linguistic characteristics of a specific language not only determine long-term linguistic-processing mechanisms, but also delineate the organization of verbal WM for that language.

Keywords Short-term memory . Workingmemory . Memory models . Lexical processing . Word recognition

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Working memory (WM) is usually conceptualized as a system with a limited capacity to maintain and manipulate information for a short period of time. The WM model with multiple components (Baddeley, 1986, 2000; Baddeley & Hitch, 1974) is one of the most prominent accounts to describe the mechanisms of WM. According to this model, verbal information is retained mainly, if not exclusively, in phonological representations. This claim is supported by the robust effects of phonological similarity (i.e., phonologically dissimilar words are remembered better than phonologically similar ones; Baddeley, 1966b; Conrad & Hull, 1964), word length (i.e., words with shorter spoken durations are remembered better than those with longer spoken durations; Baddeley, Thomson, & Buchanan, 1975), and articulatory suppression (i.e., concurrent articulation of irrelevant sounds abolishes the word length effect in immediate serial-recall tasks in the visual, but not in the auditory, modality; Baddeley, Lewis, & Vallar, 1984;Baddeleyetal.,1975;Murray,1968). In contrast, the semantic similarity effect is more significant in affecting the memory performance in subsequent memory tests than in immediate recall (Baddeley, 1966a, 1966b). In the early study conducted by Baddeley (1966b), it was also found that when the pronunciations of spoken words in a list were all different, the memory accuracy of words with distinct spellings (e.g., friend, sleigh,andboard) was equivalent to that of words with similar spellings (e.g., rough, cough,andthrough). Such results showed that the manipulation of orthographic similarity did not result in different performance in participants' immediate recall.

Despite the early findings of the lack of effects of word forms and meanings on verbal WM, a growing body of evidence has suggested that phonological representation and covert rehearsal may not be the only mechanisms supporting the temporary maintenance of verbal information. Several lexical and semantic factors have been shown to affect WM performance. For example, words are recalled better than nonwords (Besner & Davelaar, 1982;Brener,1940;Crowder,1976;Hulme,Maughan,& Brown, 1991), high-frequency words are recalled better than low-frequency ones (Hulme et al. …

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