Lexical and semantic contributions to working memory

Working memory is a construct central to cognition as it serves as the theoretical bridge between short term and long term memory. Current models of working memory describe function and organization differently based on structural or neural activation perspectives but both approaches provide support for a system comprised of: 1) domain specific activated traces and 2) domain-free controlled attention. This study investigates the nature of working memory by examining lexical and semantic interactions in a serial recall task. In this experimental design, key words categorized on usage frequency and lexical confusability were embedded in sentences to test for interactions with cognitive processes operating in the primacy and/or recency portions of the serial position curve. Results from the sentence serial recall task showed that high usage words produced primacy effects interactively larger than their low usage words, indicating that the lexical property of word usage frequency facilitates encoding while lexical density does not exert a significant influence on the encoding of long term memory.