Recall is not necessary for verbal sequence learning.

04 Jun 2018

The question of whether overt recall of to-be-remembered material accelerates learning is important in a wide range of real-world learning settings. In the case of verbal sequence learning, previous research has proposed that recall either is necessary for verbal sequence learning (Cohen & Johansson Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 6, 139-143, 1967; Cunningham, Healy, & Williams Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 10, 575-597, 1984), or at least contributes significantly to it (Glass, Krejci, & Goldman Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 189-199, 1989; Oberauer & Meyer Memory, 17, 774-781, 2009). In contrast, here we show that the amount of previous spoken recall does not predict learning and is not necessary for it. We suggest that previous research may have underestimated participants' learning by using suboptimal performance measures, or by using manual or written recall. However, we show that the amount of spoken recall predicted how much interference from other to-be-remembered sequences would be observed. In fact, spoken recall mediated most of the error learning observed in the task. Our data support the view that the learning of overlapping auditory-verbal sequences is driven by learning the phonological representations and not the articulatory motor responses. However, spoken recall seems to reinforce already learned representations, whether they are correct or incorrect, thus contributing to a participant identifying a specific stimulus as either "learned" or "new" during the presentation phase.