Dissociation Between Recency and Span: Neuropsychological and Experimental Evidence

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This article reports dissociations between verbal span and the recency portion of the serial position curve in immediate free recall, in 2 neuropsychological case studies and in 3 experiments with normal participants. Patient A. N. presented with an impaired serial verbal span while showing an intact recency effect. The opposite pattern was observed in patient G. C., who despite a poor recency showed normal span in verbal serial recall tasks. Experiments 1 and 2 showed a recency effect with visually and auditory presented lists and written recall was resistant to the effects of articulatory suppression and of irrelevant speech, but was disrupted by the suffix effect. Experiment 3 showed that in contrast with recency, memory span was affected by articulatory suppression and irrelevant speech during presentation but not by a suffix. These findings are not consistent with the idea that span and recency measure aspects of the same memory system. Moreover, in clinical practice, they should not be used as equivalent alternatives.

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