Health and Medicine Question #69

Gavin Dune, a 19 year old male from Australia asks on September 24, 1999,

How does the sensory memory help us to hear, read and understand whole sentences? For example. when I read a sentence, by the time I reach the last word, I am no longer conscience of the previous words, however I can still understand the entire sentence. Basically, how do we understand whole sentences (using what form of memory)?

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The answer

Philip Lieberman answered on September 24, 1999

We understand sentences by means of "verbal working memory" a temporary store for the words of a sentence. I discuss VWM briefly in my book Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution, published by Harvard University Press. The chapter "Human language and the reptilian brain: The sub cortical bases of speech, syntax and thought" discusses this topic in detail. You can also read about verbal working memory in books authored by Alan Baddeley, for example Working Memory (Oxford Psychology Series No. 11.

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