Relationship between attentional processing of input and working memory: an eye-tracking study

Bimali Indrarathne, Judit Kormos

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Working memory (WM) facilitates the regulation of attentional resources and the processing of input in learning an L2. The study reported in this presentation investigated how attention paid to a target syntactic construction (causative ‘had’) in written L2 input is related to the functioning of WM including both the phonological loop and the central executive (CE) and how WM moderates the change of knowledge of the target grammatical construction in different input conditions.

Four WM tests were used to measure both the capacity of the phonological loop and the functions of the CE in a sample of 100 Sri Lankan learners of English who were exposed explicit and implicit learning conditions. Their eye movements were tracked as they read the input. A sentence reconstruction and a grammaticality judgment task were administered to assess gains in knowledge of the target construction.

Correlational and multiple regression analyses indicated a very strong relationship between WM abilities and the gain scores in both tasks. The results revealed that WM was predictive of gains in implicit knowledge in all input conditions; however, WM had a somewhat smaller effect on the improvement of explicit knowledge in the implicit learning conditions. The amount of attention paid to input was very closely associated with the WM capacity of the participants. We argue that L2 learners with a higher WM capacity pay more attention to input and are, therefore at an advantage when learning a novel grammatical construction both in explicit and implicit learning conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
Event12th BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG : Crossing Boundaries: Language Learning and Teaching Inside and Outside the Classroom - Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Jun 20161 Jul 2016
Conference number: 12


Conference12th BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG
Abbreviated titleBAAL LLT SIG
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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