Long-term semantic representations moderate the effect of attentional refreshing on episodic memory

Vanessa M Loaiza, Kayla A Duperreault, Matthew G Rhodes, David P McCabe
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 2015, 22 (1): 274-80
The McCabe effect (McCabe, Journal of Memory and Language 58:480-494, 2008) refers to an advantage in episodic memory (EM) retrieval for memoranda studied in complex span versus simple span tasks, particularly for memoranda presented in earlier serial positions. This finding has been attributed to the necessity to refresh memoranda during complex span tasks that, in turn, promotes content-context binding in working memory (WM). Several frameworks have conceptualized WM as being embedded in long-term memory. Thus, refreshing may be less efficient when memoranda are not well-established in long-term semantic memory (SM). To investigate this, we presented words and nonwords in simple and complex span trials in order to manipulate the long-term semantic representations of the memoranda with the requirement to refresh the memoranda during WM. A recognition test was administered that required participants to make a remember-know decision for each memorandum recognized as old. The results replicated the McCabe effect, but only for words, and the beneficial effect of refreshing opportunities was exclusive to recollection. These results extend previous research by indicating that the predictive relationship between WM refreshing and long-term EM is specific to recollection and, furthermore, moderated by representations in long-term SM. This supports the predictions of WM frameworks that espouse the importance of refreshing in content-context binding, but also those that view WM as being an activated subset of and, therefore, constrained by the contents of long-term memory.

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