Phonological memory and word learning deficits in children with specific language impairment: A role for perceptual context?

Ronny Moav-Scheff, Rachel Yifat, Karen Banai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sensitivity to perceptual context (anchoring) has been suggested to contribute to the development of both oral- and written-language skills, but studies of this idea in children have been rare. Aims: To determine whether deficient anchoring contributes to the phonological memory and word learning deficits of children with specific language impairment (SLI). Methods and procedures: 84 preschool children with and without SLI participated in the study. Anchoring to repeated items was evaluated in two tasks - a phonological memory task and a pseudo-word learning task. Outcomes and results: Compared to children with typical development, children with SLI had poorer phonological memory spans and learned fewer words during the word learning task. In both tasks the poorer performance of children with SLI reflected a smaller effect of anchoring that was manifested in a smaller effect of item repetition on performance. Furthermore, across the entire sample anchoring was significantly correlated with performance in vocabulary and grammar tasks. Conclusions and implications: These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that anchoring contributes to language skills and that children with SLI have impaired anchoring, although further studies are required to determine the role of anchoring in language development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-399
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Anchoring
  • Developmental language disorder
  • Learning
  • Perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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