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Visual similarity effects in immediate verbal serial recall

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The role of visual working memory in temporary serial retention of verbal information was examined in four experiments on immediate serial recall of words that varied in visual similarity and letters that varied in the visual consistency between upper and lower case. Experiments 1 and 2 involved words that were either visually similar (e.g. fly, cry, dry; hew, new, few) or were visually distinct (e.g. guy, sigh, lie; who, blue, ewe). Experiments 3 and 4 involved serial recall of both letter and case from sequences of letters chosen such that the upper- and lower-case versions were visually similar, for example Kk, Cc, Zz, Ww, or were visually dissimilar, for example Dd, Hh, Rr, Qq. Hence in the latter set, case informationwas encoded interms of both the shape and the size of the letters. With both words and letters, the visually similar items resulted in poorer recall both with and without concurrent articulatory suppression. This visual similarity effect was robust and was replicated across the four experiments. The effect was not restricted to any particular serial position and was particularly salient in the recall of letter case. These data suggest the presence of a visual code for retention of visually presented verbal sequences in addition to a phonological code, and they are consistent with the use of a visual temporary memory, or visual "cache", in verbal serial recall tasks.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, U.K. 2: University of Bristol, Bristol, U.K.

Publication date: August 1, 2000


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