Changing-state Irrelevant Speech Disrupts Visual-Verbal but not Visual-Spatial Serial Recall

Marsh, John Everett orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9494-1287, Hurlstone, Mark, Marois, Alexandre orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4127-4134, Ball, Linden orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5099-0124, Moore, Stuart, Vachon, François, Schlittmeier, Sabine, Röer, Jan, Buchner, Axel et al (2023) Changing-state Irrelevant Speech Disrupts Visual-Verbal but not Visual-Spatial Serial Recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition . ISSN 0278-7393

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In an influential paper, Jones et al. (1995) provide evidence that auditory distraction by changing relative to repetitive auditory distracters (the changing-state effect) did not differ between a visual-verbal and visual-spatial serial recall task, providing evidence for an amodal mechanism for the representation of serial order in short-term memory that transcends modalities. This finding has been highly influential for theories of short-term memory and auditory distraction. However, evidence vis-à-vis the robustness of this result is sorely lacking. Here, two high-powered replications of Jones et al.’s (1995) crucial Experiment 4 were undertaken. In the first partial replication (n = 64), a fully within-participants design was adopted, wherein participants undertook both the visual-verbal and visual-spatial serial recall tasks under different irrelevant sound conditions, without a retention period. The second near-identical replication (n = 128), incorporated a retention period and implemented the task-modality manipulation as a between-participants factor, as per the original Jones et al. (1995; Experiment 4) study. In both experiments, the changing-state effect was observed for visual-verbal serial recall but not for visual-spatial serial recall. The results are consistent with modular and interference-based accounts of distraction and challenge some aspects of functional equivalence accounts.

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