, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 202-207

STM capacity for Chinese and English language materials


This paper delineates the theoretical implications of a program of research on short-term memory using Chinese characters as stimuli, and compares the findings with studies of short-term memory that use English language materials. The 14 experiments on which it is principally based, carried out in the People’s Republic of China and in the U.S.A., are reported in detail in Yu et al. (1984), W. Zhanget al. (1984), and G. Zhang and Simon (this issue). One major theoretical product of this research is an experimentally tested model that reconciles the chunking theory of STM capacity with the articulatory loop theory of Baddeley, making good quantitative predictions of capacity compatible with both. Another result, obtained by using homophones as stimuli, is a demonstration that STM is mainly acoustically encoded, but that there are an additional two or three chunks of visually or semantically encoded short-term memory available. Chunks are shown to play the same role in immediate recall and rote learning in both the Chinese language and English language stimuli; and STM capacity, measured in chunks, is essentially the same for materials in both languages.