Exploring the sentence advantage in working memory: Insights from serial recall and recognition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Early online date1 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

© Experimental Psychology Society 2017. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • working memory
  • sentence memory
  • recall
  • recognition
  • staircase method

Cite this