Single-probe serial position recall: evidence of modularity for olfactory, visual and auditory short-term memory

This source preferred by Andrew Johnson

Authors: Johnson, A.J. and Miles, C.

Journal: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

Volume: 62

Pages: 267-275

ISSN: 1747-0218

DOI: 10.1080/17470210802303750

The present study examined and compared order memory for a list of sequentially presented odours, unfamiliar-faces and pure-tone. Employing single-probe serial position recall and following a correction for a response bias, qualitatively different serial position functions were observed across stimuli. Participants demonstrated an ability to perform absolute order memory judgments for odours. Furthermore, odours produced an absence of serial position effects, unfamiliar-faces produced both primacy and recency and pure-tones produced recency but not primacy. Such a finding is contrary to the proposal by Ward, Avons and Melling (2005) that the serial position function is task, rather than modality, dependent. In contrast, the observed functions support a modular conceptualisation of short-term memory (e.g. Andrade and Donaldson, 2007; Baddeley and Hitch, 1974), whereby separate modality-specific memorial systems operate. An alternative amodal interpretation is also discussed wherein serial position function disparities are accommodated via differences in the psychological distinctiveness of stimuli (Hay, Smyth, Hitch and Horton, 2007).

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