Memory for verbal and nonverbal stimuli in learning disability subgroups: analysis by selective reminding

J Exp Child Psychol. 1985 Oct;40(2):244-59. doi: 10.1016/0022-0965(85)90088-8.


Memory for verbal and nonverbal stimuli was evaluated using selective reminding procedures in normal achieving children and four groups of disabled learners: (1) reading-spelling disabled (R-S); (2) reading-spelling-arithmetic disabled (R-S-A); (3) spelling-arithmetic disabled (S-A); and (4) arithmetic disabled (A). Each child received two analogous free-list memory tasks, one for verbal material (animal names) and the other for nonverbal material (random dot patterns). These tasks were administered using selective reminding procedures that permit separation of storage and retrieval aspects of memory by reminding children only of those words not recalled on previous trials. Results revealed that relative to controls, the A and S-A children had significantly lower storage and retrieval scores on the nonverbal task, but did not differ on the verbal task; the R-S children differed only on retrieval scores from the verbal task; and the R-S-A children on retrieval scores on the verbal task and storage and retrieval scores on the nonverbal task. Thus, results indicate that the memory performance of disabled learners varies according to (1) the type of learning problem (arithmetic vs reading), (2) the nature of the stimuli (verbal vs nonverbal), and (3) the aspect of memory being assessed (storage vs retrieval). This study provides external validation for the classification of disabled learners according to patterns of academic achievement, demonstrating a useful procedure for dealing with the intrasubject variability characteristic of disabled learners.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Dyslexia / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Memory*
  • Phonetics
  • Verbal Behavior