Articulatory Suppression and the College Mom

Being a working mother of three children and attending Penn State World Campus full time has proved to be quite challenging. As the courses are being increasingly difficult, I am finding it harder and harder to study vocabulary words while my children are up and about. I have found myself preferring to either work very late into the night, or waking up extremely early in order to get my studies done. I had always assumed it was better to study in quiet, but never really knew the phenomenon that was happening in my own head: the articulatory suppression effect on my phonological loop.

We have learned that the phonological loop is where verbal information is stored, and where everything we try to commit to memory is first contained (Goldstein, 2011). When listening to an online lecture or any other information that is coming at us verbally and trying to retain what it is saying, we are using our phonological loop. This component of working memory only lasts a few seconds, and the incoming information must be refreshed in the phonological loop in order for us to retain the relevant information (Goldstein, 2011). In order to properly retain the information of the vocabulary words that I try to remember and repeat over and over in my head, and I find myself having a hard time retaining the information because of the constant sounds of my children chatting or playing.

The articulatory suppression effect is a phenomenon that interrupts the phonological loop and reduces memory retention. It is usually demonstrated in a laboratory setting (we all had an experience of that with our CogLab) and occurs when a word is repeated over and over again while one is trying to remember a separate list of words (Goldstein, 2011). I can compare this phenomenon to my life, because when I am trying to memorize a list of definitions and terms for my classes, I am using my phonological loop and the articulatory suppression effect occurs when my noisy children interrupt the processes going on in my head. They prohibit me from converting the information to long-term memory and although the sounds they produce are not the same repetitive sounds, the concept in itself is very similar. Their verbal interruptions interfere with my rehearsal and memorization, so I have found that it is better to study in the quiet of the late night or early morning when I have the best opportunity to store information without articulatory suppression.

Works Cited

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

3 thoughts on “Articulatory Suppression and the College Mom

  1. Sasha Lorraine

    Greetings Lisa,
    As a fellow mommy/student I can completely relate to this! I have a two year old who is learning how to talk so I get a lot of “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” I suppose it’s much like the cog lab where a specific word was repeated over and over again. Basically she uses up all of my cognitive resources!
    I’ve given up trying to study or do any schoolwork while she is awake. Try as I might I just keep getting distracted and it’s wasted time on my part because I learn absolutely nothing. In my case the best time to do school work is at night, usually from 8:00 to 11:00 pm. Not only do I not have my daughter distracting me, but by finishing school work and immediately going to sleep I am able to avoid interface of other stimuli that might affect my retention.
    I hope you find this useful!

    Sasha Rodriguez

  2. Nicole Marie Tobias

    I completely understand and sympathize with you in the fact that studying with kids playing in the background is certainly not easy. As I have two young children, both under the age of five, I find myself trying to remember terms for quizzes exceptionally difficult with them playing loudly in the room. The articulatory suppression definitely does prevent knowledge from being retained through the phonological loop, and I also find myself not retaining these terms and definitions while studying with my children in the background. Although, from chapter four in our textbook, it mentions of an experiment called dichotic listening, in which different messages are heard through different ears. In regards to selective attention, if you “pay attention” to the term you are trying to remember (the attended message), and ignore the unattended message (the children playing and screaming in the background), you may be able to successfully remember these terms through shadowing. Shadowing, according to the text, is when you “repeat a message out loud,” to make sure you are focusing all of your attention “on the attended message” (p. 84). This technique allows you to allot your full attention to the attended message (the definitions), which leaves little or no attention for the unattended message (kids playing). Thus, I find myself repeating words out loud repetitively, which seem to reverse the articulatory suppression, allowing myself to remember more terms than when I did not use shadowing. Perhaps this may help you in the same way that this helps me retain information when studying for exams. Of course, it does always seem easiest to study in the quiet, late at night, without children, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Happy studying!


    Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

  3. Courtney Kay Anderson

    I completely understand how difficult it seems to retain information with children around. My three year old can make a lot of noise while I’m trying to study. I also know sometimes it’s hard to find quiet time to study. Perhaps you could think of your school work as a selective attention experiment.

    In a selective attention experiment which is described in Chapter 4, two different messages are given into both ears. Participants are instructed to pay attention to a message given in only one ear, which is called the attended message. Maybe you can think of your vocabulary words as the attended message and try to ignore all the noise your children are making. The experiments recommends to repeat the attending word out loud, this is called shadowing. Participants of the experiment are asked to repeat the word with a delay after a few seconds of hearing it. Shadowing will help you focus your attention on your vocabulary words. The experiment says if you do this, you should be able to accomplish this task pretty easily(Goldstein, 84.) I hope this helps with your vocabulary studies!

    Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Goldstein, E. Bruce. 2011. Third Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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