Immediate serial recall of sentences has been shown to be superior to that of unrelated words. The present study was designed to further explore how this effect might emerge in recall, and to establish whether it also extends to serial recognition, a different form of response task that has relatively reduced output requirements. Using auditory or visual presentation of sequences, we found a substantial advantage for sentences over lists in serial recall, an effect shown on measures of recall accuracy, order, intrusion, and omission errors and reflected in transposition gradients. In contrast however, recognition memory based on a standard change detection paradigm gave only weak and inconsistent evidence for a sentence superiority effect. However, when a more sensitive staircase procedure imported from psychophysics was used, a clear sentence advantage was found although the effect sizes were smaller than those observed in serial recall. These findings suggest that sentence recall benefits from automatic processes that utilise long-term knowledge across encoding, storage, and retrieval.
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- working memory
- sentence memory
- staircase method