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Recent research in working memory has highlighted the similarities involved in retrieval from complex span tasks and episodic memory tasks, suggesting that these tasks are influenced by similar memory processes. In the present article, the authors manipulated the level of processing engaged when studying to-be-remembered words during a reading span task (Experiment 1) and an operation span task (Experiment 2) in order to assess the role of retrieval from secondary memory during complex span tasks. Immediate recall from both span tasks was greater for items studied under deep processing instructions compared with items studied under shallow processing instructions regardless of trial length. Recall was better for deep than for shallow levels of processing on delayed recall tests as well. These data are consistent with the primary-secondary memory framework, which suggests that to-be-remembered items are displaced from primary memory (i.e., the focus of attention) during the processing phases of complex span tasks and therefore must be retrieved from secondary memory.

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