Old-fashioned responses in an updating memory task

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Errors in a running memory task are analysed. Participants were presented with a variable-length list of items and were asked to report the last four items. It has been proposed (Morris & Jones, 1990) that this task requires two mechanisms: the temporal storage of the target set by the articulatory loop and its updating by the central executive. Two implicit assumptions in this proposal are (a) the preservation of serial order, and (b) participants' capacity to discard earlier items from the target subset as list presentation is running, and new items are appended. Order preservation within the updated target list and the inhibition of the outdated list items should imply a relatively higher rate of location errors for items from the medial positions of the target list and a lower rate of intrusion errors from the outdated and inhibited items from the pretarget positions. Contrary to these expectations, for both consonants (Experiment 1) and words (Experiment 2) we found recency effects and a relatively high rate of intrusions from the final pretarget positions, most of them from the very last. Similar effects were apparent with the embedded four-item lists for catch trials. These results are clearly at odds with the presumed updating by the central executive.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02724980443000395

Affiliations: 1: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Spain 2: Universidad de Jaén, Jaén, Spain

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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