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Stimulus similarity decrements in children's working memory span

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Two experiments investigated the impact of the relationship between processing and storage stimuli on the working memory span task performance of children aged 7 and 9 years of age. In Experiment 1, two types of span task were administered (sentence span and operation span), and participants were required to recall either the products of the processing task (sentence-final word, arithmetic total) or a word or digit unrelated to the processing task. Experiment 2 contrasted sentence span and operation span combined with storage of either words or digits, in tasks in which the item to be remembered was not a direct product of the processing task in either condition. In both experiments, memory span was significantly greater when the items to be recalled belonged to a different stimulus category from the material that was processed, so that in sentence span tasks, number recall was superior to word recall, and in operation span tasks, word recall was superior to number recall. Explanations of these findings in terms of similarity-based interference and response competition in working memory are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Durham, Durham, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2005


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