RESEARCH ARTICLE


Spatial Descriptions Eliminate the Serial Position Effect



Ilaria Santoro1, Fabrizio Sors1, Serena Mingolo1, Valter Prpic2, 3, Tiziano Agostini1, Mauro Murgia1, *
1 Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste 34138, Italy
2 Department of Philosophy and Communication Studies, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
3 Institute for Psychological Science, De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom


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Creative Commons License
© 2023 Murgia et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste 34138, Italy; Tel: +39 3404020442; E-mail: mmurgia@units.it


Abstract

Aims:

The present study aims to investigate the occurrence of the serial position effect in the recall of items verbally presented in three different contexts.

Background:

The serial position effect has been studied with both verbal (e.g., words) and visuospatial (e.g., locations) stimuli but not with verbal-spatial stimuli (i.e., spatial description of an environment). In particular, a spatial description of an environment has both spatial information and a meaningful context.

Objective:

The objective of the present study is to determine whether the use of different contexts (namely, a classic word list, a spatial description of a room, and a narrative without spatial information) can alter the serial position effect.

Methods:

Depending on the condition, participants were exposed to a) a list of objects, b) a spatial description of a room containing the same objects; c) a narrative presenting the same objects in lack of spatial information. After this learning phase, participants performed a recognition task.

Results:

The recognition task revealed different accuracy distributions in the three conditions. In particular, in the spatial description condition, the accuracy distribution did not change across the item position.

Conclusion:

This result is in line with previous studies with visuospatial stimuli. Thus, it seems that spatial descriptions are a particular kind of verbal stimuli, which are encoded similarly to visuospatial stimuli. Overall, these outcomes support the idea that spatial descriptions elicit a spatial representation, which enhances item retention and eliminates the serial position effect.

Keywords: Spatial description, Serial position, Context, Verbal stimuli, Visuospatial stimuli, Serial position effect.