Remembering txt but not text: The effect of context and lexicality on memory for text message abbreviations

Michael J. Tat, Tamiko Azuma

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Scopus citations


    Text messages often contain abbreviations allowing for an efficient manner to quickly convey content. Although text abbreviations typically contain fewer letters than words, research has demonstrated that they are processed more slowly. Text abbreviations are lexically unique compared to their fully spelled counterparts. This study examined the nature of episodic memory representations for text abbreviations and how top-down contextual information influences the encoding of text abbreviations. In this experiment, participants studied sentences that contained different types of abbreviations: deletions (e.g., tmrw), substitutions (e.g., 2mrw) or pseudo abbreviations (e.g., toorow). The sentences were presented within a conversational context or without context. In a recognition memory test, participants saw sentences from the study task that contained either the same abbreviation or a different type of abbreviation. Results revealed that conversational context increased both hits and false recognition rates in the memory test. False recognition rates were generally higher for abbreviation types that shared more surface feature overlap and lower for those that shared less surface feature overlap. The findings suggest text abbreviations have distinct episodic memory representations that incorporate their unique surface feature information and are closely associated to fully spelled lexical memory representations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)435-459
    Number of pages25
    JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Feb 2 2015

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Linguistics and Language
    • Psychology(all)
    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Language and Linguistics


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