An Attentional Approach to Individual Differences in Immediate Memory.
Final technical rept. 1 Apr 77-31 May 78,
WASHINGTON UNIV SEATTLE DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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It was hypothesized that attentional factors might determine a persons ability to combine memory maintenance with other tasks, and that these attentional factors might be related to verbal ability. Results from Experiment 1 indicated that rehearsal and response to a probe stimulus compete for processing capacity, since reaction time to the probe varied with difficulty of rehearsal. Furthermore, reaction time to the probe during an easy version of the recall task predicted proportion of items correctly recalled on a hard version of the recall task. Neither recall nor probe reaction time was related to verbal ability. In Experiment 2, verbal ability was found to be strongly related to reaction time on a simple sentence verification task, but only weakly related to measures of immediate memory. When sentence verification and recall were combined, prediction of verbal ability was not improved. Results from Experiments 2 and 3 indicated that a few items can be maintained in memory without interfering with a sentence verification task. It was concluded that a few items can be held in memory for a short period without requiring processing capacity. The number of items that can be maintained effortlessly is related to digit span, but not to verbal ability. Maintaining additional items did interfere with the sentence verification task, but amount of interference was not related to verbal ability.