Tones and Numbers: Specificity of Interference in Immediate Memory

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Science  26 Jun 1970:
Vol. 168, Issue 3939, pp. 1604-1605
DOI: 10.1126/science.168.3939.1604


Recognition of the pitch of a tone was severely disrupted by the incorporation of six other tones during a 5-second retention interval, even though the intervening tones could be ignored. However, the requirement to recall six numbers spoken at equal loudness during the identical retention interval produced only a minimum decrement in the same pitch-recognition task. Further, the requirement to remember the tone produced no decrement in recall of the numbers. It is concluded that immediate memory for pitch is subject to a large interference effect which is highly specific in nature and which is not due to some limitation in general short-term memory capacity or to a distraction of attention.

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