Disruption by Speech of Serial Short-Term Memory: The Role of Changing-State Vowels

By Hughes, Robert W.; Tremblay, Sébastien et al. | Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Disruption by Speech of Serial Short-Term Memory: The Role of Changing-State Vowels


Hughes, Robert W., Tremblay, Sébastien, Jones, Dylan M., Psychonomic Bulletin & Review


Serial short-term memory is markedly impaired by the presence of irrelevant speech so long as the successive tokens within the irrelevant speech are phonologically (or acoustically) dissimilar (Jones & Macken, 1995b). In two experiments in which consonant-vowel-consonant syllables were used as irrelevant speech tokens, we sought to evaluate the relative disruptive potency of changes in the final consonant only (Experiment 1), in the initial consonant, or in the vowel portion (Experiment 2) of each token. The results suggest that the vowel changes are the dominant source of disruption. This dominance may be explained, at least in part, by the role played by vowel sounds in the perceptual organization of speech and, in turn, the particular propensity for vowel changes to yield information about serial order. The results are consistent also with the view that the factors that promote order encoding in sound are also the ones that promote disruption.

In a seminal study, Colle and Welsh (1976) found that background speech disrupted serial recall of visually presented items, despite the fact that the participants had been instructed to ignore the speech. This so-called irrelevant sound effect has been widely and frequently replicated and has contributed to the understanding of the interrelations between perception, attention, and memory (for recent discussions, see, e.g., Baddeley, 2000; Jones & Tremblay, 2000; Neath, 2000). In the present study, we investigated a phenomenon first reported by Jones and Macken ( 1995b)-namely, that a sequence of irrelevant speech tokens that are phonologically dissimilar from each other causes more disruption than does a sequence of phonologically similar tokens. Using consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) syllables, we examined whether any kind of phonological change between successive speech tokens gives rise to a phonological dissimilarity effect or whether some attributes (e.g., vowels, as compared with consonants) assume more importance than others.

Generally, many aspects of the irrelevant sound effect command a good degree of consensus: The intensity of the sound is not an influential variable, at least within the range of 40-76 dB(A) (Colle, 1980; see also Tremblay & Jones, 1999); the effect occurs within memory, not at encoding (Miles, Jones, & Madden, 1991 ); the meaning of sound (when speech is used) plays little if any role in the effect (Buchner, Irmen, & Erdfelder, 1996); and tasks that rely heavily on, or encourage, a serial rehearsal strategy (e.g., serial recall) are particularly susceptible to disruption (e.g., Jones & Macken, 1993).

An early account of the irrelevant sound effect proposed that the effect is confined to speech and, more specifically, that the effect is a function of the degree of phonological similarity between the irrelevant material and the to-be-remembered items (Salamé & Baddeley, 1982). However, several lines of evidence now converge to refute this account, including the finding that irrelevant nonspeech sounds (e.g., tones) can disrupt serial recall (e.g., Jones & Macken, 1993). Moreover, a study by Jones and Macken (1995b) provided more direct evidence against the phonological interference account by demonstrating that the degree of phonological similarity between the relevant and the irrelevant material was not, in fact, a strong predictor of the level of disruption (see also Larsen, Baddeley, & Andrade, 2000; LeCompte & Shaibe, 1997).

The study of Jones and Macken ( 1995b; Experiments 3 and 4) did reveal, however, that the degree of phonological dissimilarity within the irrelevant sequence does strongly dictate the degree of disruption. Specifically, an irrelevant sequence made up of the nonrhyming words hat, cow, nest . . . or deaf, pay, bell . . . was more disruptive than a sequence made up of the rhyming words sea, flea, key . . . or door, war, more ... In a more recent study, Larsen et al. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Disruption by Speech of Serial Short-Term Memory: The Role of Changing-State Vowels
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.