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The development of phonemic coding strategies for serial recall

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 1999

Susan Nittrouer*
Boys Town National Research Hospital
Marnie E. Miller
Boys Town National Research Hospital
Susan Nittrouer, Boys Town National Research Hospital, 555 North 30th Street, Omaha, NE 68131. Email:


This study examined differences between adults and children and between normal and poor readers in the use of phonemic coding strategies for storing words in working memory. In the first experiment, adults, 11-year-olds, and 8-year-olds (categorized as normal or poor readers) recalled eight-item strings of rhyming and nonrhyming words. A developmental decrease in errors was observed for adults, 11-year-olds, and normal-reading 8-year-olds that reflected an improvement in the phonemic coding of items in working memory, but no difference was found between normal- and poor-reading 8-year-olds in the use of phonemic coding strategies. A second experiment with shorter lists and more children supported the latter finding. The results were interpreted as demonstrating that the ability to access syllable-internal phonemic structure is a necessary precursor to the development of phonemic coding strategies for working memory, but that the use of that structure for storing words in working memory is a skill that develops independently and later than the ability to access phonemic structure.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1999

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