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Keeping It Together: Semantic Coherence Stabilizes Phonological Sequences in Short-Term Memory

Savill, Nicola, Ellis, Rachel, Brooke, Emma, Koa, Tiffany, Ferguson, Suzie, Rojas-Rodriguez, Elena, Arnold, Dominic, Smallwood, Jonathan and Jefferies, Elizabeth (2018) Keeping It Together: Semantic Coherence Stabilizes Phonological Sequences in Short-Term Memory. Memory & Cognition, 46 (3). pp. 426-437.

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Abstract

Our ability to hold a sequence of speech sounds in mind, in the correct configuration, supports many aspects of communication but the contribution of conceptual information to this basic phonological capacity remains controversial. Previous research has found modest and inconsistent benefits of meaning on phonological stability in short-term memory but these studies presented sets of unrelated words. Using a novel design, we examined the immediate recall of sentence-like sequences with coherent meaning, alongside standard word lists and mixed lists containing words and nonwords. We found, and replicated, substantial effects of coherent meaning on phoneme-level accuracy: the phonemes of both words and nonwords within conceptually-coherent sequences were more likely to be produced together, in the correct order. Since nonwords do not exist as items in long-term memory, the semantic enhancement of phoneme-level recall for both item types cannot be explained by a lexically-based item reconstruction process employed at the point of retrieval (“redintegration”). Instead, our data show, for naturalistic input, when meaning emerges from the combination of words, the phonological traces that support language are reinforced by a semantic binding process that has been largely overlooked by past short-term memory research.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: “This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Memory & Cognition. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Savill, Nicola and Ellis, Rachel and Brooke, Emma and Koa, Tiffany and Ferguson, Suzie and Rojas-Rodriguez, Elena and Arnold, Dominic and Smallwood, Jonathan and Jefferies, Elizabeth (2017) Keeping It Together: Semantic Coherence Stabilizes Phonological Sequences in Short-Term Memory is available online at: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-017-0775-3”
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-017-0775-3
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF180-198.7 Experimental psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF309-499 Consciousness. Cognition. Memory
School/Department: School of Psychological & Social Sciences
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/2681

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