Lexical Access Across Languages: A Multinomial Model of Auditory Distraction


Recall in many types of verbal memory task is reliably disrupted by the presence of auditory distracters, with verbal distracters frequently proving the most disruptive (Beaman, 2005). A multinomial processing tree model (Schweickert, 1993) is applied to the effects on free recall of background speech from a known or an unknown language. The model reproduces the free recall curve and the impact on memory of verbal distracters for which a lexical entry exists (i.e., verbal items from a known language). The effects of semantic relatedness of distracters within a language is found to depend upon a redintegrative factor thought to reflect the contribution of the speech-production system. The differential impacts of known and unknown languages cannot be accounted for in this way, but the same effects of distraction are observed amongst bilinguals, regardless of distracter-language.

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