The age invariance of working memory measures and noninvariance of producing complex syntax

Susan Kemper, Karen A. Kemtes
1999 Behavioral and Brain Sciences  
Commentary/Caplan & Waters: Working memory and sentence comprehension syntactic processing task has no detrimental effect. Because syntactic processing may proceed unhindered by a load, it may be performed relatively automatically, without much controlled attention. However, secondary load tasks do interfere with syntactic processing when the load-task stimuli are interleaved with the syntax task, demonstrating that, when syntactic information must be sustained across an attention shift, it
more » ... ntion shift, it suffers significantly. Rather than assign syntactic processing to a specialized component of working memory, then, we suggest that it operates independently of the central executive. That is, working memory capacity is needed only under attention-demanding circumstances, and, insofar as syntactic processing appears to be immune to divided-attention conditions, it likely occurs relatively automatically. Caplan and Waters (1990) argued that the phonological loop may be required in some syntactic parsing circumstances, such as when subjects are "garden-pathed" or when many words must be maintained in active memory. Why not use that interpretation for the present work?
doi:10.1017/s0140525x99301783 fatcat:y4pycrytfbfvxhbobyfyfn6z2m