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Representation of Linguistic Information Determines Its Susceptibility to Memory Interference

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Author(s): Myra A. Fernandes | Jeffrey D. Wammes | Janet H. Hsiao

Journal: Brain Sciences
ISSN 2076-3425

Volume: 3;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 1244;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: memory | dual-task | language | representation | retrieval

ABSTRACT
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.
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