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J Mem Lang. 2006 Aug;55(2):274-289.

Development of Working Memory for Verbal-Spatial Associations.

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  • 1University of Missouri.


Verbal-to-spatial associations in working memory may index a core capacity for abstract information limited in the amount concurrently retained. However, what look like associative, abstract representations could instead reflect verbal and spatial codes held separately and then used in parallel. We investigated this issue in two experiments on memory for associations between names and spatial locations, with or without a 1-to-1 correspondence between the two. Participants (children 9-10 and 12-13 years old and college students) saw series of names presented at spatial locations occupied by house icons and indicated the location at which a probe name had appeared. Only adults benefited from 1-to-1 correspondence between names and locations, and this benefit was eliminated by articulatory suppression. We maintain that the 1-to-1 benefit stems from verbal and spatial codes used in parallel. Without rehearsal, performance appears to index working memory for abstract, cross-modal information. Correlations with other tasks suggest that it is an excellent measure of working memory capacity.

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