Serial position markers in space: visuospatial priming of serial order working memory retrieval

Maya De Belder, Elger Abrahamse, Mauro Kerckhof, Wim Fias, Jean-Philippe van Dijck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Most general theories on serial order working memory (WM) assume the existence of position markers that are bound to the to-be-remembered items to keep track of the serial order. So far, the exact cognitive/neural characteristics of these markers have remained largely underspecified, while direct empirical evidence for their existence is mostly lacking. In the current study we demonstrate that retrieval from verbal serial order WM can be facilitated or hindered by spatial cuing: begin elements of a verbal WM sequence are retrieved faster after cuing the left side of space, while end elements are retrieved faster after cuing the right side of space. In direct complement to our previous work--where we showed the reversed impact of WM retrieval on spatial processing--we argue that the current findings provide us with a crucial piece of evidence suggesting a direct and functional involvement of space in verbal serial order WM. We outline the idea that serial order in verbal WM is coded within a spatial coordinate system with spatial attention being involved when searching through WM, and we discuss how this account can explain several hallmark observations related to serial order WM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0116469
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Cognition/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term/physiology
  • Speech Perception/physiology


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