Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Order Recall in Verbal Short-Term Memory: The Role of Semantic Networks

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Order Recall in Verbal Short-Term Memory: The Role of Semantic Networks

Article excerpt

Published online: 10 October 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract In their recent article, Acheson, MacDonald, and Postle (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 37:44-59, 2011) made an important but controversial suggestion: They hypothesized that (a) semantic information has an effect on order information in short-term memory (STM) and (b) order recall in STM is based on the level of activation of items within the relevant lexico-semantic long-term memory (LTM) network. However, verbal STM research has typically led to the conclusion that factors such as semantic category have a large effect on the number of correctly recalled items, but little or no impact on order recall (Poirier & Saint-Aubin, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 48A:384-404, 1995; Saint-Aubin, Ouellette, & Poirier, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 12:171- 177, 2005; Tse, Memory 17:874-891, 2009). Moreover, most formal models of short-term order memory currently suggest a separate mechanism for order coding-that is, one that is separate from item representation and not associated with LTM lexico-semantic networks. Both of the experiments reported here tested the predictions that we derived from Acheson et al. The findings show that, as predicted, manipulations aiming to affect the activation of item representations significantly impacted order memory.

Keywords Short-term memory . Workingmemory . Order recall . Immediate memory . Activated long-term memory

We are all familiar with the experience of reading an article in our field of expertise. Expressions are recognized, some arguments and ideas are anticipated, and grasping the experimental logic is facilitated by our understanding of the strategies in the area. Thus, our previous knowledge of the constituents of the article significantly supports our understanding of the work. In important ways, this example illustrates one of the most fundamental functions that memory performs: allowing the past to support and guide our present interactions with the world. This is the issue that motivated the present work; in the experiments reported here, we examined the interaction between semantic knowledge and the last few seconds of our most recent past-the content of verbal short-term memory (STM).

Here, we viewed STM as a less general system than working memory. More specifically, STM was defined as the system that carries out the temporary maintenance of information necessary for many mental or cognitive operations and tasks (Baddeley, 1986). Generally, STM is recognized as playing an important role in everyday cognition (Cowan, 1999;Majerus,2009). Moreover, the role of STM for order has also been highlighted in cognitive development, and in particular in learning new words (Cowan, 1999;Majerus& Boukebza, 2013). One of the roles of STM that is regarded as central is the short-term maintenance of the order of events (Majerus, 2009). As a simple example, consider keying in a new security code, address, or phone number. These can, of course, be written down, but even in order to do so, they must be maintained in memory long enough for the writing down to take place.

Short- and long-term memory

Until relatively recently, the literature examining how the lexico-semantic properties of verbal items affect performance in STM tasks was sparse. However, the present work bears witness to the growing interest in this area, with recent research having systematically explored the relationship between language organization in long-term memory (LTM) andverbalshort-termrecall(e.g.,Acheson,MacDonald,& Postle, 2011; Hamilton & Martin, 2007;Majerus,2009;R.C. Martin, 2006; Tehan, Humphreys, Tolan, & Pitcher, 2004; Thorn & Page, 2009). Nevertheless, less work has been done on the factors typically associated with semantic LTM. The studies reported here tested a controversial hypothesis that suggests that semantic LTM plays an important role in verbal STM, and more specifically in short-term order memory. …

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