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Is there really a time based word length effect.

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Is there really a time based word length effect.

It has been found that lists of short words are usually recalled better than lists of longer words in serial recall tasks. (Baddeley, Thomson and Buchanon 1975). This is known as the word length phenomenon, and was discovered in the works of Baddeley et al. Baddeley, Thomson and Buchanon (1975) found that long words take longer to rehearse and produce lower memory spans. Baddeley at al (1975) have shown that the time taken to read words aloud and the successful immediate recall of words are closely related. Many theories have been proposed to explain the word-length effect. These can be generally be "divided into item-based explanations (that attribute the differences in recall between long and short words to properties of the individual items). And list-based explanations where the effects of word length arise from global properties, usually the total duration of the list that has to be recalled". The two explanations make different predictions about what will happen when short and long words appear in alternating positions in the same list. Item-based models predict a word-length effect for individual short and long words in the alternating conditions.

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After looking at both types of explanations given to the word length effect, is the crucial feature the length of time it takes to utter the items or the number of syllables. A number of studies have shown that it is the duration, which appears to be the critical factor. In these studies it has been found that words which have long vowels and that are spoken slowly lead to shorter spans than words with the same number of syllables and phonemes that are spoken more rapidly, suggesting that time is the crucial factor. The following studies should shed some light on whether there is really a time based word length effect.

Naveh- Benjamin and Ayres (1986) measured relationship between reading time and the memory span in English, Spanish Hebrew and Arabic. They concluded that faster speeded and normal- pace reading rates for language were associated with larger memory span for speakers of that language. Hence Baddeley felt that there must be a strong correlation between the rate at which a person speaks and their memory span (Baddeley et al 1975). The Following studies appear to support Baddeleys assumption.

Ellis and Hennelly (1980) used the word length effect to interpret the findings of an intelligence test used with Welsh speaking children.

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(Baddeley, 1986, 2000) consists of the phonological store and articulatory control process, which together make up the articulatory loop. As we discussed before if the articulatory loop process does not rehearse items then items will decay, and because shorter items take less time to rehearse, more traces of short items can be refreshed than traces of long items, which was the basic explanation of the time based word length effect by the list-based explanation. However if the time based word length effect is not found in different stimulus sets, then the very foundation of the working memory view is "greatly compromised". And taking into consideration that the working memory model is the most widely accepted view of immediate memory; this has even greater effects on the research and theories of memory as a whole. Despite the time based word length effect appearing as “common sense” as it seems quite clear that things which take longer to say or read with be harder to remember (due to the time it takes). In order for the time based word effect to prove it strength it will have to be apparent not only in different languages but also in different stimulus sets.

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