Smalle, E., Szmalec, A., Bogaerts, L., Page, M. P. A., Narang, V., Misra, D., Araujo, S., Lohagun, N., Khan, O., Singh, A., Mishra, R. K., & Huettig, F.
(2019). Literacy improves short-term serial recall of spoken verbal but not visuospatial items - Evidence from illiterate and literate adults. Cognition, 185, 144-150. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.01.012.
It is widely accepted that specific memory processes, such as serial-order memory, are involved in written language development and predictive of reading and spelling abilities. The reverse question, namely whether orthographic abilities also affect serial-order memory, has hardly been investigated. In the current study, we compared 20 illiterate people with a group of 20 literate matched controls on a verbal and a visuospatial version of the Hebb paradigm, measuring both short- and long-term serial-order memory abilities. We observed better short-term serial-recall performance for the literate compared with the illiterate people. This effect was stronger in the verbal than in the visuospatial modality, suggesting that the improved capacity of the literate group is a consequence of learning orthographic skills. The long-term consolidation of ordered information was comparable across groups, for both stimulus modalities. The implications of these findings for current views regarding the bi-directional interactions between memory and written language development are discussed.