Questioning short-term memory and its measurement: Why digit span measures long-term associative learning

We cast doubt on this general approach in a detailed analysis of the basis for the robust finding that short-term memory for digit sequences is superior to that for other sequences of verbal material. Specifically, we show across four experiments that this advantage is not due to inherent characteristics of digits as verbal items, nor are individual digits within sequences better remembered than other types of individual verbal items. Rather, the advantage for digit sequences stems from the increased frequency, compared to other verbal material, with which digits appear in random sequences in natural language, and furthermore, relatively frequent digit sequences support better short-term serial recall than less frequent ones.