Investigation of the interaction between cross-modal stimuli and item grouping and their potential effects on working memory

  • Panagiota Afentouli
  • Vasiliki Apeiranthitou
  • Marios-Dimitrios Chatzinikolaou
  • Chris Kallitsantsis
  • Penelope Louka
  • Andreas Tsirides
Keywords: Working memory, item grouping, cross-modal stimuli, limitations, memory capacity, visual-haptic, visual-auditory, working memory model


Working memory capacity is limited and can be affected by various factors. It is suggested that working memory can hold up to 3-4 objects. Empirical research indicates that the larger the number of visual material individuals hold in working memory, the less memory is accurate. Yet, fast and accurate recognition of objects can be achieved through haptic investigation and the storage of visual-auditory items is substantially increased when individuals are presented with spoken words. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential interaction of cross-modal stimuli (visual-auditory/visual-haptic) and item grouping, along with their separate effects, on working memory. Two item presentations were utilized; one where participants were presented with visual-auditory items and one where participants were presented with visual-haptic items. All participants were presented with both grouped and non-grouped items. The items’ recognition (free recall) was measured in 135 participants, using a 2x2 factorial mixed ANOVA design. Statistically significant results were observed for the main effect of item grouping on working memory [(F(1,133)=40.179, p<0.001, two-tailed, –2=0.090]. No statistically significant results were observed for the main effect of cross-modal stimuli on working memory [F(1,133)=0.36, p=0.549, two-tailed], or for the interaction between item grouping and cross-modal stimuli on working memory [(F (1,133)=2.959, p=0.088, two-tailed]. Such results indicate that item/material grouping is a contributory factor to individuals’ working memory, closely related to students’ learning and memorization within a classroom environment. Future research should investigate the effects of these variables, along with item familiarity, on long-term memory.

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