When long-term learning depends on short-term storage

Alan Baddeley, Costanza Papagno, Giuseppe Vallar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the 1960s, there has been controversy as to whether long-term learning might depend on some form of temporary short-term storage. Evidence that patients with grossly impaired memory span might show normal learning was, however, particularly problematic for such views. We reexamine the question by studying the learning capacity of a patient, P.V., with a very pure deficit in short-term memory. A series of experiments compare her learning capacity with that of matched controls. The first experiment shows that her capacity to learn pairs of meaningful words is within the normal range. A second experiment examines her capacity to learn to associate a familiar word with an unfamiliar item from another language. With auditory presentation she is completely unable to perform this task. Further studies show that when visual presentation is used she shows evidence of learning, but is clearly impaired. It is suggested that short-term phonological storage is important for learning unfamiliar verbal material, but is not essential for forming associations between meaningful items that are already known. Implications for the possible role of a phonological short-term store in the acquisition of vocabulary by children are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-595
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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