Data_Sheet_1_Word Meaning Contributes to Free Recall Performance in Supraspan Verbal List-Learning Tests.PDF (1.2 MB)

Data_Sheet_1_Word Meaning Contributes to Free Recall Performance in Supraspan Verbal List-Learning Tests.PDF

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posted on 2020-08-14, 12:54 authored by Sandrine Cremona, Gaël Jobard, Laure Zago, Emmanuel Mellet

Supraspan verbal list-learning tests, such as the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), are classic neuropsychological tests for assessing verbal memory. In this study, we investigated the impact of the meaning of the words to be learned on three memory stages [short-term recall (STR), learning, and delayed recall (DR)] in a cohort of 447 healthy adults. First, we compared scores obtained from the RAVLT (word condition) to those of an alternative version of this test using phonologically similar but meaningless items (pseudoword condition) and observed how each score varied as a function of age and sex. Then, we collected the participants’ self-reported strategies to retain the word and pseudoword lists and examined if these strategies mediated the age and sex effects on memory scores. The word condition resulted in higher memory scores than pseudoword condition at each memory stage and even canceled out, for the learning stage, the detrimental effect of age that was observed for the short-term and DR. When taking sex into account, the word advantage was observed only in women for STR. The self-reported strategies, which were similar for words and pseudowords, were based on the position of the item on the list (word: 53%, pseudoword: 37%) or the meaning of the item (word: 64%, pseudoword: 58%) and were used alone or in combination. The best memory performance was associated with the meaning strategy in the word condition and with the combination of the meaning and position strategies in the pseudoword condition. Finally, we found that the word advantage observed in women for STR was mediated by the use of the meaning strategy. The RAVLT scores were thus highly dependent on word meaning, notably because it allowed efficient semantic knowledge-based strategies. Within the framework of Tulving’s declarative memory model, these results are at odds with the depiction of the RAVLT as a verbal episodic memory test as it is increasingly referred to in the literature.