Intonation does aid serial recall after all

Michelina Savino, Bodo Winter, Andrea Bosco, Martine Grice

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A sequence of spoken digits is easier to recall if the digits are grouped into smaller chunks (e.g., through the insertion of pauses). It has been claimed that intonation does not facilitate recall over and above the effect achieved by pauses. This may be related to the fact that past research has used synthesized intonation contours. In this replication study, we show that intonation does provide benefits once more naturalistic intonation contours are used. This benefit is independent of response modality (spoken responses, keyboard responses, or handwritten responses in a grid). We furthermore show that intonation differentially affects specific positions within the sequence of digits. Crucially, our results suggest that researchers and clinicians need to pay attention to intonation when assessing working memory using spoken language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-372
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Digit span
  • Intonation
  • Serial recall
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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