The phonological store of working memory: A critique and an alternative, perceptual-motor, approach to verbal short-term memory

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A key quality of a good theory is its fruitfulness, one measure of which might be the degree to which it compels researchers to test it, refine it, or offer alternative explanations of the same empirical data. Perhaps the most fruitful element of Baddeley and Hitch’s (1974) Working Memory framework has been the concept of a short-term phonological store, a discrete cognitive module dedicated to the passive storage of verbal material that is architecturally fractionated from perceptual, language, and articulatory systems. This review discusses how the phonological store construct has served as the main theoretical springboard for an alternative perceptual-motor approach in which serial recall performance reflects the opportunistic co-opting of the articulatory planning system and, when auditory material is involved, the products of obligatory auditory perceptual organisation. It is argued that this approach, which rejects the need to posit a distinct short-term store, provides a better account of the two putative empirical hallmarks of the phonological store—the phonological similarity effect and the irrelevant speech effect—and that it shows promise too in being able to account for nonword repetition and word-form learning, the supposed evolved function of the phonological store. The neuropsychological literature cited as strong additional support for the phonological store concept is also scrutinised through the lens of the perceptual-motor approach for the first time and a tentative articulatory-planning deficit hypothesis for the ‘short-term memory’ patient profile is advanced. Finally, the relation of the perceptual-motor approach to other ‘emergent-property’ accounts of short-term memory is briefly considered.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 May 2024


  • Phonological Store; Verbal Serial Short-Term Memory; Working Memory; Serial Recall; Perceptual-Motor Approach;

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