The impact of the lexicality of memory items on memory performance was compared in two paradigms, serial recall and serial recognition. Experiments 1 to 3 tested 7- and 8-year-old children. Memory accuracy was only mildly impaired in lists containing nonwords compared with words in a serial recognition task involving judgments of whether the items in two sequences were in the same order (Experiment 1), although a substantial advantage for word over nonword items from the same stimulus pool was found in serial recall (Experiment 2). A stronger influence of lexicality on serial recall than serial recognition was further demonstrated in Experiments 3A and 3B, and in 4A and 4B using adult participants. These experiments also established comparable degrees of sensitivity to the phonological similarity of the memory sequences in the two paradigms. The phonological similarity effect in serial recall was found to arise from increased phoneme order errors, whereas the lexicality effect was due principally to the greater frequency of phoneme identity errors for nonwords. It is proposed that the lexicality effect originates in the redintegration of item information just prior to recall, and that this process is largely bypassed in serial recognition.
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