Task-irrelevant Speech and Environmental Sounds Differentially Affect Serial Verbal and Spatial Short-term Memory in Children and Adults (en)

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Day / Time: 08.03.2023, 15:40-16:20
Typ: Poster
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Abstract: Short-term memory for visually presented material is reliably impaired by task-irrelevant sounds that the participants are instructed to ignore. This so-called Irrelevant Sound Effect (ISE) has been attributed to attentional capture, and to specific interference between preattentive, automatic sound processing and deliberate processes involved in retention of the memory lists. The ISE is stronger with changing speech tokens (e.g., words, syllables) when compared to repetitions of single tokens (changing-state effect). Aiming to further explore the roles of attention control and specific interference in the ISE, we analyzed the effects of changing-state and steady-state syllables (Exp.1) and narrative, foreign speech and environmental sounds (Exp.2) on serial order reconstruction of visually presented verbal and spatial items in children (n=218) and adults (n=178). For the verbal task, the results show a greater disruption with syllable sequences in children when compared to adults (Exp.1) but age-equivalent impairments due to narrative speech and non-speech sounds (Exp.2). For the spatial task, performance was unaffected in adults. The children were affected due to narrative speech and non-speech sounds (Exp. 2) but not by steady-state or changing-state syllables (Exp.1). These findings indicate different mechanisms underlying the effects of background speech, changing-state syllables and environmental sounds.


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