Conceptual similarity effects on working memory in sentence contexts: Testing a theory of anaphora

H. Wind Cowles, Alan Garnham, Julia Simner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The degree of semantic similarity between an anaphoric noun phrase (e.g., the bird) and its antecedent (e.g., a robin) is known to affect the anaphor resolution process, but the mechanisms that underlie this effect are not known. One proposal (Almor, 1999) is that semantic similarity triggers interference effects in working memory and makes two crucial assumptions: First, semantic similarity impairs working memory just as phonological similarity does (e.g., Baddeley, 1992), and, second, this impairment interferes with processes of sentence comprehension. We tested these assumptions in two experiments that compared recall accuracy between phonologically similar, semantically similar, and control words in sentence contexts. Our results do not provide support for Almor's claims: Phonological overlap decreased recall accuracy in sentence contexts, but semantic similarity did not. These results shed doubt on the idea that semantic interference in working memory is an underlying mechanism in anaphor resolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1218-1232
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


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