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Mem Cognit. 2011 Oct;39(7):1198-210. doi: 10.3758/s13421-011-0094-z.

Does length or neighborhood size cause the word length effect?

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Psychology Department, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NF, A1B 3X9, Canada.


Jalbert, Neath, Bireta, and Surprenant (2011) suggested that past demonstrations of the word length effect, the finding that words with fewer syllables are recalled better than words with more syllables, included a confound: The short words had more orthographic neighbors than the long words. The experiments reported here test two predictions that would follow if neighborhood size is a more important factor than word length. In Experiment 1, we found that concurrent articulation removed the effect of neighborhood size, just as it removes the effect of word length. Experiment 2 demonstrated that this pattern is also found with nonwords. For Experiment 3, we factorially manipulated length and neighborhood size, and found only effects of the latter. These results are problematic for any theory of memory that includes decay offset by rehearsal, but they are consistent with accounts that include a redintegrative stage that is susceptible to disruption by noise. The results also confirm the importance of lexical and linguistic factors on memory tasks thought to tap short-term memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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