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A test of interference versus decay in working memory: Varying distraction within lists in a complex span task

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-87
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Early online date18 Apr 2016
DateAccepted/In press - 31 Mar 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 18 Apr 2016
DatePublished (current) - Oct 2016


We tested two competing explanations of the effect of processing on working memory. According to decay models, memory representations decay during processing and can be rehearsed or refreshed in the free time between processing steps. Alternatively, one interference-based model assumes that processing involves encoding of distractor representations in working memory, and free time is used to remove distractors. In several experiments the demand from distractor processing was varied within lists, such that one burst of processing following an item on the list was either particularly demanding or particularly undemanding. The exceptional distractor burst had its greatest effect on the list item that immediately preceded it (a local effect), and it affected items that had not yet been presented as well as preceding items. Both findings are predicted by a computational interference model of working memory, and together are problematic for the viewpoint that refreshing offsets decay.

    Research areas

  • working memory, interference, decay, rehearsal, computational models

    Structured keywords

  • Memory

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    Accepted author manuscript, 329 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY-NC-ND


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