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Disruption of verbal STM by irrelevant speech, articulatory suppression, and manual tapping: Do they have a common source?

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Under appropriate conditions, immediate serial verbal recall is impaired by irrelevant speech, articulatory suppression, and syncopated tapping. Interpretation of these variables in terms of the phonological loop component of working memory assumes separate phonological storage and articulatory rehearsal processes. In contrast, the Object-Oriented Episodic Record (O-OER) of Jones and the feature theory of Neath interpret these and other phenomena in terms of a unitary multimodal system. Three experiments investigate these disrupting tasks, with each experiment emphasizing one parameter. In each case, recall of phonologically similar and dissimilar letter sequences is compared as a marker of the presence or absence of phonological coding. In Experiment 1, subjects heard or articulated a single item, or tapped a single key at equal intervals. Only articulatory suppression impaired performance; it also abolished the effects of phonological similarity. Experiment 2 was identical, except that items were heard, or generated in a syncopated rhythm. Both suppression and tapping impaired performance to an equivalent extent and obliterated the effect of phonological similarity. Syncopated irrelevant speech caused a modest but significant impairment in performance. Experiment 3 was identical to Experiment 1, except that six tokens were used. Irrelevant speech and tapping had a clear impact on recall, but neither removed the phonological similarity effect. Again articulatory suppression had a major impact on performance and removed the effect of phonological similarity. We conclude that the pattern of results readily fits the phonological loop hypothesis, provided one accepts Saito’s proposal that generating syncopated sequences uses common processes with speech production. It is not clear how the results can be explained by either the O-OER or the feature hypothesis.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: John Carroll University, Ohio, USA 2: University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Publication date: November 1, 2003


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