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Visual working memory is disrupted by covert verbal retrieval


If working memory (WM) depends on a central resource—as is posited in some theories, but not in others—it should be possible to observe interference between tasks that share few features with each other. We investigated whether interference with WM for visual arrays would occur, even if the interfering task required neither visual processing nor overt responding. In an auditory-verbal interfering task, a response was to be made if a word was recognized as having come from one of two prelearned lists, but not from the other list. As compared with nonretrieval control conditions, even covert verbal memory retrieval disrupted the storage of visual items held in WM. A second experiment ruled out verbal recoding of the visual arrays as the basis of interference. The results indicate that visual WM and verbal long-term retrieval share a central resource (e.g., attention).


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Correspondence to Timothy J. Ricker.

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Ricker, T.J., Cowan, N. & Morey, C.C. Visual working memory is disrupted by covert verbal retrieval. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 17, 516–521 (2010). https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.17.4.516

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  • Retention Interval
  • Secondary Task
  • Visual Working Memory
  • Articulatory Suppression
  • Auditory Task