Reexamination of Word Length Effect: Immediate Serial Recall of Foreign Words

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Junichiro Takeno, Chugokugakuen University; Ken Tamai, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies; Shigenobu Takatsuka, Okayama University

In this study we examined the word length effect—one characteristic of the phonological loop of working memory—in a foreign language. Serial position effects, such as the primacy effect and the recency effect, were observed in the recall of foreign words, similar to results in L1 studies. Recall of long (one-syllable) and short (three-syllable) words in pure (all long or all short) and mixed (long and short) lists was compared. In pure lists, there was a tendency for long words to be more poorly remembered than short words, which we considered to be because of the word length effect. In mixed lists, both long and short words were recalled equally as well as short words were recalled in pure lists. These results indicate that we should pay more attention to item distinctiveness, which elicits the attention of the central executive in working memory, as well as the word length effect in regards to rehearsal speed. Effective use of the phonological loop in listening comprehension is also discussed.


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