Long-Term Working Memory and Transient Storage in Reading Comprehension: What Is the Evidence? Comment on Foroughi, Werner, Barragán, and Boehm-Davis (2015)

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In a recent article, Foroughi, Werner, Barragán, and Boehm-Davis (2015) demonstrated that interspersing interruptions between paragraphs during reading sometimes reduces accuracy on comprehension questions. We propose an account of their findings within long-term working memory (LTWM) theory. Our account proposes that interruptions interfere with the accessibility of the generated encodings of the text in long-term memory (LTM) and that unimpaired continued comprehension requires restoration of access to these memory encodings during the resumption of reading after the interruptions. It is consistent with the accuracy of question answering being substantially preserved in their study, which is seemingly inconsistent with their transient storage account. This theoretical controversy does not diminish the importance of Foroughi et al.’s results: We agree that additional research is needed to understand when and how interruptions impact various aspects of comprehension.

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