Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Research Byte: Study suggests writing places greater demands on working memory than reading and listening

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Adv Cogn Psychol. 2015; 11(4): 147–155.
Published online 2015 Dec 31. doi:  10.5709/acp-0179-6
PMCID: PMC4710969

Writing, Reading, and Listening Differentially Overload Working Memory Performance Across the Serial Position Curve


Previous research has assumed that writing is a cognitively complex task, but has not determined if writing overloads Working Memory more than reading and listening. To investigate this, participants completed three recall tasks. These were reading lists of words before recalling them, hearing lists of words before recalling them, and hearing lists of words and writing them as they heard them, then recalling them. The experiment involved serial recall of lists of 6 words. The hypothesis that fewer words would be recalled overall when writing was supported. Post-hoc analysis revealed the same pattern of results at individual serial positions (1 to 3). However, there was no difference between the three conditions at serial position 4, or between listening and writing at positions 5 and 6 which were both greater than recall in the reading condition. This suggests writing overloads working memory more than reading and listening, particularly in the early serial positions. The results show that writing interferes with working memory processes and so is not recommended when the goal is to immediately recall information.
Keywords: working memory, reading, listening, writing, serial recall

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