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J Exp Child Psychol. 1991 Apr;51(2):220-34.

Speech, "inner speech," and the development of short-term memory: effects of picture labeling on recall.

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University of Manchester.


Three experiments explored the effect of overt speech on children's use of "inner speech' in short-term memory (STM). Experiments 1 and 2 compared recall of a series of pictured objects when 5- and 11-year-olds either labeled stimuli at presentation or remained silent. Use of inner speech was assessed by manipulating word length of the picture names (Experiment 1) or phonemic similarity (Experiment 2). Word length and phonemic similarity had greater effects in the older children and when pictures were labeled at presentation. These tendencies were such that 5-year-olds were sensitive to word length and phonemic similarity only with labeling. Experiment 3 compared labeling by the child with labeling by the experimenter in 5-year-olds. There were no significant differences with respect to overall performance or effects of word length and phonemic similarity. It is suggested that speaking or listening to speech activates and internal "articulatory loop,' and that such activation is especially important when the child's ability to use inner speech in STM has not fully developed.

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