The effect of lexical factors on recall from working memory: Generalizing the neighborhood size effect. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The word-length effect, the finding that lists of short words are better recalled than lists of long words, is 1 of the 4 benchmark phenomena that guided development of the phonological loop component of working memory. However, previous work has noted a confound in word-length studies: The short words used had more orthographic neighbors (valid words that can be made by changing a single letter in the target word) than long words. The confound is that words with more neighbors are better recalled than otherwise comparable words with fewer neighbors. Two experiments are reported that address criticisms of the neighborhood-size account of the word-length effect by (1) testing 2 new stimulus sets, (2) using open rather than closed pools of words, and (3) using stimuli from a language other than English. In both experiments, words from large neighborhoods were better recalled than words from small neighborhoods. The results add to the growing number of studies demonstrating the substantial contribution of long-term memory to what have traditionally been identified as working memory tasks. The data are more easily explained by models incorporating the concept of redintegration rather than by frameworks such as the phonological loop that posit decay offset by rehearsal. (PsycINFO Database Record


  • Derraugh, Lesley S
  • Neath, Ian
  • Surprenant, Aimée M
  • Beaudry, Olivia
  • Saint-Aubin, Jean

publication date

  • March 2017