Cross-modal working memory binding and L1-L2 word learning

Shinmin Wang, Richard J. Allen, Shin Yi Fang, Ping Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The ability to create temporary binding representations of information from different sources in working memory has recently been found to relate to the development of monolingual word recognition in children. The current study explored this possible relationship in an adult word-learning context. We assessed whether the relationship between cross-modal working memory binding and lexical development would be observed in the learning of associations between unfamiliar spoken words and their semantic referents, and whether it would vary across experimental conditions in first- and second-language word learning. A group of English monolinguals were recruited to learn 24 spoken disyllable Mandarin Chinese words in association with either familiar or novel objects as semantic referents. They also took a working memory task in which their ability to temporarily bind auditory-verbal and visual information was measured. Participants’ performance on this task was uniquely linked to their learning and retention of words for both novel objects and for familiar objects. This suggests that, at least for spoken language, cross-modal working memory binding might play a similar role in second language-like (i.e., learning new words for familiar objects) and in more native-like situations (i.e., learning new words for novel objects). Our findings provide new evidence for the role of cross-modal working memory binding in L1 word learning and further indicate that early stages of picture-based word learning in L2 might rely on similar cognitive processes as in L1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1371-1383
Number of pages13
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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