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The uses of short term memory: a case study

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David Howard


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It has been widely claimed that the systems employed in tasks of immediate memory have a function in the comprehension of speech; these systems, it has been proposed, are used to hold a representation of the speech until a syntactic analysis and interpretation have been completed. Such a holding function is meant to be especially important where the sentences heard are long or complex. It has thus been predicted that subjects with impaired short-term memory performance would show deficits in comprehension of such materials. In this study, one subject with impaired phonological processing and a severely reduced digit span was tested on a range of tasks requiring the syntactic analysis, memory and comprehension of long and complex material. She was found to be unimpaired on syntactic analysis and comprehension, but not on sentence repetition. The implications for models of short-term memory are discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Butterworth BL, Campbell R, Howard D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A

Year: 1986

Volume: 38

Issue: 4

Pages: 705-737

Print publication date: 01/11/1986

ISSN (print): 0272-4987

ISSN (electronic): 1464-0740

Publisher: Psychology Press


DOI: 10.1080/14640748608401622


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