Recalling visual serial order for verbal sequences

Robert Logie, Satoru Saito, Aiko Morita, Samarth Varma, D. Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We report three experiments in which participants performed written serial recall of visually presented verbal sequences with items varying in visual similarity. In Experiments 1 and 2 native speakers of Japanese recalled visually presented Japanese Kanji characters. In Experiment 3, native speakers of English recalled visually presented words. In all experiments, items varied in visual similarity and were controlled for phonological similarity. For Kanji and for English, performance on lists comprising visually similar items was overall poorer than for lists of visually distinct items across all serial positions. For mixed lists in which visually similar and visually distinct items alternated through the list, a clear 'zig-zag' pattern appeared with better recall of the visually distinct items than for visually similar items. This is the first time that this zig-zag pattern has been shown for manipulations of visual similarity in serial ordered recall. These data provide new evidence that retaining a sequence of visual codes relies on similar principles to those that govern the retention of a sequence of phonological codes. We further illustrate this by demonstrating that the data patterns can be readily simulated by at least one computational model of serial ordered recall, the Primacy model (Page and Norris, 1998). Together with previous evidence from neuropsychological studies and experimental studies with healthy adults, these results are interpreted as consistent with two domain-specific, limited capacity, temporary memory systems respectively for phonological material and for visual material, and each of which uses similar processes that have evolved to be optimal for retention of serial order.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • short-term memory
  • visual similarity
  • serial position effects
  • working memory


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