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The word-length effect provides no evidence for decay in short-term memory


Lewandowsky, Stephan; Oberauer, Klaus (2008). The word-length effect provides no evidence for decay in short-term memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(5):875-888.

Abstract

Many researchers regard the word-length effect (WLE) as one of the strongest pieces of evidence for timebased decay in short-term memory. We argue that the WLE is, in fact, undiagnostic for the decay hypothesis for two reasons. First, the WLE represents a correlation across words between articulation duration and memory performance, and articulation duration is inevitably confounded with other word characteristics. Recent research has confirmed that such confounds are responsible for much, maybe all, of the WLE. Second, there is strong evidence for an attentional mechanism of refreshing memory traces that can operate concurrently with articulation. Any viable decay-based model must include such a mechanism, but such a model no longer necessarily predicts a WLE, because longer spoken duration does not imply longer postponement of refreshing. We conclude that the WLE is not diagnostic for decay in short-term memory. © 2008 Psychonomic Society, Inc.

Abstract

Many researchers regard the word-length effect (WLE) as one of the strongest pieces of evidence for timebased decay in short-term memory. We argue that the WLE is, in fact, undiagnostic for the decay hypothesis for two reasons. First, the WLE represents a correlation across words between articulation duration and memory performance, and articulation duration is inevitably confounded with other word characteristics. Recent research has confirmed that such confounds are responsible for much, maybe all, of the WLE. Second, there is strong evidence for an attentional mechanism of refreshing memory traces that can operate concurrently with articulation. Any viable decay-based model must include such a mechanism, but such a model no longer necessarily predicts a WLE, because longer spoken duration does not imply longer postponement of refreshing. We conclude that the WLE is not diagnostic for decay in short-term memory. © 2008 Psychonomic Society, Inc.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:07 Jul 2014 13:35
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:57
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1069-9384
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.15.5.875

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