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Mem Cognit. 1989 Jul;17(4):398-422.

Modality effects and the structure of short-term verbal memory.


The effects of auditory and visual presentation upon short-term retention of verbal stimuli are reviewed, and a model of the structure of short-term memory is presented. The main assumption of the model is that verbal information presented to the auditory and visual modalities is processed in separate streams that have different properties and capabilities. Auditory items are automatically encoded in both the A (acoustic) code, which, in the absence of subsequent input, can be maintained for some time without deliberate allocation of attention, and a P (phonological) code. Visual items are retained in both the P code and a visual code. Within the auditory stream, successive items are strongly associated; in contrast, in the visual modality, it is simultaneously presented items that are strongly associated. These assumptions about the structure of short-term verbal memory are shown to account for many of the observed effect of presentation modality.

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