WORKING MEMORY CONSTRAINTS ON SYMBOLIC COMPARISON

  • Craig Leth Steensen

Abstract

In this study, 54 participants performed binary comparisons involving learned symbolicstimuli from an artificially induced linear ordering (i.e., the names of six imaginaryindividuals assumed to differ in height). On half of the comparison trials, they also performedone of three working memory tasks assumed to tap the resources of the phonological loop, thevisual-spatial sketchpad, or the central executive components of Baddeley and Hitch’s (1974)model. Perhaps surprisingly, both concurrent articulatory suppression and spatial tappingdid not affect comparison RTs very much, although spatial tapping did result in anenhancement of the symbolic distance effect in the accuracy measures. On the other hand,concurrent random letter generation had a dramatic effect on both RT and accuracy andresulted in enhancements of the distance, end, and semantic congruity effects. These resultscall into question the automaticity of the symbolic comparison process and also imply that atleast some part of it involves spatial processing.
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