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Brain Sci. 2013, 3(3), 1244-1260; doi:10.3390/brainsci3031244

Representation of Linguistic Information Determines Its Susceptibility to Memory Interference

Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada
Department of Psychology, University of Hong Kong, 604 Knowles Building, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 17 May 2013 / Revised: 18 July 2013 / Accepted: 30 July 2013 / Published: 8 August 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Language)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [278 KB, 15 August 2013; original version 8 August 2013]   |  


We used the dual-task paradigm to infer how linguistic information is represented in the brain by indexing its susceptibility to retrieval interference. We measured recognition memory, in bilingual Chinese-English, and monolingual English speakers. Participants were visually presented with simplified Chinese characters under full attention, and later asked to recognize them while simultaneously engaging in distracting tasks that required either phonological or visuo-spatial processing of auditorily presented letters. Chinese speakers showed significantly greater memory interference from the visuo-spatial than phonological distracting task, a pattern that was not present in the English group. Such a pattern suggests that retrieval of simplified Chinese characters differentially requires visuo-spatial processing resources in Chinese speakers; these are compromised under dual-task conditions when such resources are otherwise engaged in a distracting task. In a secondary analysis, we showed the complementary pattern in a group of English speakers, whose memory for English words was disrupted to a greater degree from the phonological than visuo-spatial distracting task. Together, these results suggest the mode of representation of linguistic information can be indexed behaviorally by susceptibility to retrieval interference that occurs when representations overlap with resources required in a competing task.
Keywords: memory; dual-task; language; representation; retrieval memory; dual-task; language; representation; retrieval

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Fernandes, M.A.; Wammes, J.D.; Hsiao, J.H. Representation of Linguistic Information Determines Its Susceptibility to Memory Interference. Brain Sci. 2013, 3, 1244-1260.

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