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Auditory memory and the irrelevant sound effect: Further evidence for changing-state disruption

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Four experiments investigate the hypothesis that irrelevant sound interferes with serial recall of auditory items in the same fashion as with visually presented items. In Experiment 1 an acoustically changing sequence of 30 irrelevant utterances was more disruptive than 30 repetitions of the same utterance (the changing-state effect; Jones, Madden, & Miles, 1992) whether the to-be-remembered items were visually or auditorily presented. Experiment 2 showed that two different utterances spoken once (a heterogeneous compound suffix; LeCompte & Watkins, 1995) produced less disruption to serial recall than 15 repetitions of the same sequence. Disruption thus depends on the number of sounds in the irrelevant sequence. In Experiments 3a and 3b the number of different sounds, the "token-set" size (Tremblay & Jones, 1998), in an irrelevant sequence also influenced the magnitude of disruption in both irrelevant sound and compound suffix conditions. The results support the view that the disruption of memory for auditory items, like memory for visually presented items, is dependent on the number of different irrelevant sounds presented and the size of the set from which these sounds are taken. Theoretical implications are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Reading, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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