Serial order in short-term memory
Richard Henson, winner of the 1998 Award for Outstanding Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychology.
How do we maintain a novel sequence of items in the correct order? For example, how do we remember the car number plate at the scene of a crime? Or how do we remember an unfamiliar telephone number during the few seconds between putting down the telephone directory and picking up the telephone? This immediate serial recall or ‘memory-span’ task has fascinated psychologists for decades; it has remained the dominant empirical tool behind contemporary theories of short-term memory, such as Alan Baddeley’s working-memory theory (Baddeley, 1986). However, like many questions in cognitive psychology, the apparent ease with which we perform such a simple task (providing the telephone number is not too long!) masks a rich and complex host of issues.
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