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Working memory and serial order: Evidence against numerical order codes but for item-position associations


Majerus, Steve; Oberauer, Klaus (2019). Working memory and serial order: Evidence against numerical order codes but for item-position associations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45(12):2123-2146.

Abstract

The processing of ordinally organized information is a characteristic of both serial-order working memory and numerical cognition. Serial positions of items presented within a list follow an ordinal organization when stored in working memory, whereas numbers are based on an ordinal structure stored in long-term memory. We tested the hypothesis that long-term numerical ordinal representations support the coding of temporary serial position information in working memory. In Experiment 1, learned word-number associations appeared to have a negative instead of a positive impact on immediate serial recall performance relative to control conditions. Experiments 2 showed that this effect was due to a stronger opportunity for learning associations of words to serial positions in the control lists as compared to the experimental lists. Experiment 3 showed that when controlling for these positional learning effects, there was no reliable effect of learned word-number associations on immediate serial recall performance. This study indicates that numerical codes do not play a major role in coding serial position information in working tasks. At the same time, the robust item-position learning effects demonstrate a contribution of long-term item-position associations to immediate memory for order. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Abstract

The processing of ordinally organized information is a characteristic of both serial-order working memory and numerical cognition. Serial positions of items presented within a list follow an ordinal organization when stored in working memory, whereas numbers are based on an ordinal structure stored in long-term memory. We tested the hypothesis that long-term numerical ordinal representations support the coding of temporary serial position information in working memory. In Experiment 1, learned word-number associations appeared to have a negative instead of a positive impact on immediate serial recall performance relative to control conditions. Experiments 2 showed that this effect was due to a stronger opportunity for learning associations of words to serial positions in the control lists as compared to the experimental lists. Experiment 3 showed that when controlling for these positional learning effects, there was no reliable effect of learned word-number associations on immediate serial recall performance. This study indicates that numerical codes do not play a major role in coding serial position information in working tasks. At the same time, the robust item-position learning effects demonstrate a contribution of long-term item-position associations to immediate memory for order. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

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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:21 November 2019
Deposited On:11 Dec 2019 16:08
Last Modified:11 Dec 2019 16:11
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0278-7393
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000792
Related URLs:https://osf.io/3bm6r/?view_only=6d4110b6db6047fbb28d30712ca68b4f (Research Data)
PubMed ID:31750722

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