Does Articulatory Rehearsal Help Immediate Serial Recall?

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Description: Articulatory rehearsal is assumed to benefit verbal working memory. Yet, there is no experimental evidence supporting a causal link between rehearsal and serial-order memory, which is one of the hallmarks of working memory functioning. Across four experiments, we tested the hypothesis that rehearsal improves working memory by asking participants to rehearse overtly and by instructing different rehearsal schedules. In Experiments 1a, 1b, and 2, we compared an instructed cumulative-rehearsal condition against a free-rehearsal condition. The instruction increased the prevalence of cumulative rehearsal, but recall performance remained unchanged or decreased compared to the free-rehearsal baseline. Experiment 2 also tested the impact of a fixed rehearsal instruction; this condition yielded substantial performance costs compared to the baseline. Experiment 3 tested whether rehearsals (according to an experimenter-controlled protocol) are beneficial compared to a matched articulatory suppression condition that blocked rehearsals of the memoranda. Again, rehearsing the memoranda yielded no benefit compared to articulatory suppression. In sum, our results are incompatible with the notion that rehearsal is beneficial to working memory.

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