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Reading ability and short-term memory: The role of phonological processing

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The aim of the current study was to further explore the connection between verbal short-term recall and phonological processing for two purposes: (a) To investigate the basis of short-term memory deficits for children with reading disability, and (b) To further explore the origin of developmental verbal memory span increases.

Using a variety of memory and phonological tasks, reading group comparisons were conducted testing third-grade good readers and poor readers, and developmental changes were studied with pre-kindergarten, first-grade and third-grade children. The main finding was that a strong relationship was observed between efficiency of phonological processes and capacity of verbal memory supporting the hypothesis that reducing phonological processing requirements in verbal short-term memory increases available resources for storage. No such relationship was found between phonological processing and nonverbal memory. This conclusion was supported by two findings: (a) The verbal short-term memory deficits in poor readers significantly correspond with less accurate phonological processing, and (b) Developmental increases in verbal STM are accompanied by more accurate and rapid execution of phonological tasks.

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Rapala, M.M., Brady, S. Reading ability and short-term memory: The role of phonological processing. Read Writ 2, 1–25 (1990).

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  • Reading ability
  • Short-term memory
  • Phonological processes
  • Memory development
  • Operational efficiency