Concrete words are easier to recall than abstract words: Evidence for a semantic contribution to short-term serial recall

Ian Walker, Charles Hulme

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232 Citations (Scopus)


Immediate serial recall and maximal speech rate were assessed for concrete and abstract words differing in length. Experiment 1 showed large advantages for spoken recall of concrete words that were independent of speech rate. Experiment 2 showed an equivalent effect with written, rather than spoken, recall. Experiment 3 showed that the concreteness effect was still present when recall was backward rather than forward. In all 3 experiments, concrete words enjoyed an advantage that was roughly constant across all serial positions (with the possible exception of the 1st and last items). Experiment 4 used a matching-span procedure and showed that when there was no requirement for linguistic output, the effect of concreteness (but not the effect of word length) was eliminated. It is argued that semantic coding exerts powerful effects in verbal short-term memory tasks that have generally been underestimated. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1256-1271
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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