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Rehearsal is an example of an executive process in working memory. In other words, it is a consciously controlled form of information processing that people must learn; they do not do it automatically.

When people are trying to remember an unfamiliar telephone number as they punch it into a phone, they typically repeat the number to themselves. This is what memory researchers call rehearsal. Several forms of evidence indicate that silent language rehearsal is much like re-hearing something. For one thing, silent rehearsal takes the same time as spoken speech (Landauer, 1962). Also, errors made during language rehearsal involve confusions between similar sounds as would happen with spoken speech. A subject might remember the nonsense syllable "DNW" as "TNW" because "D" and "T" both contain the "ee" sound. Sound-based errors presumably occur during rehearsal because the auditory image starts to fade and subjects grasp at the fading image to reconstruct it. Errors based on similar sounds are called acoustic confusions.

What is evidence that rehearsal is like an internal voice? What are acoustic confusions? Why do they occur?

A student provides this example:

Recently, I experienced acoustic confusion. A friend of mine called and asked if I would like to come over. He gave me his room number, which was North 205, and I kept rehearsing it over and over in my head. By the time I reached Dorman Hall, I was saying North 209. I went to room 209, knocked on the door, and went in. I asked where Jeff was, and they said he was not in that room; he was in 205. I was really embarrassed, but when we studied about acoustic confusions during rehearsal I realized what I had done. [Author's files]

This is an example of an acoustical error because "5" and "9" share the hard "i" sound. If the student was distracted while rehearsing the number "205," perhaps she grasped at the "i" sound and reconstructed the number as "209," all in a split second, without being aware of the error.

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