'WorkingMemory, Thought, and Action' is the magnum opus of one of the most influential cognitive psychologists of the past 50 years. This new volume on the model he created discusses the developments that have occurred within the model in the past twenty years, and places it within a broader context.
This target article discusses the verbal workingmemory system used in sentence comprehension. We review the concept of workingmemory as a short-duration system in which small amounts of information are simultaneously stored and manipulated in the service of accomplishing a task. We summarize the argument that syntactic processing in sentence comprehension requires such a storage and computational system. We then ask whether the workingmemory system used in syntactic processing is the same as (...) that used in verbally mediated tasks that involve conscious controlled processing. Evidence is brought to bear from various sources: the relationship between individual differences in workingmemory and individual differences in the efficiency of syntactic processing; the effect of concurrent verbal memory load on syntactic processing; and syntactic processing in patients with poor short-term memory, patients with poor workingmemory, and patients with aphasia. Experimental results from these normal subjects and patients with various brain lesions converge on the conclusion that there is a specialization in the verbal workingmemory system for assigning the syntactic structure of a sentence and using that structure in determining sentence meaning that is separate from the workingmemory system underlying the use of sentence meaning to accomplish other functions. We present a theory of the divisions of the verbal workingmemory system and suggestions regarding its neural basis. (shrink)
Workingmemory has been one of the most intensively studied systems in cognitive psychology. The Cognitive Neuroscience of WorkingMemory brings together world class researchers from around the world to summarise our current knowledge of this field, and directions for future research.
Workingmemory, an important posit in cognitive science, allows one to temporarily store and manipulate information in the service of ongoing tasks. Workingmemory has been traditionally classified as an explicit memory system – that is, as operating on and maintaining only consciously perceived information. Recently, however, several studies have questioned this assumption, purporting to provide evidence for unconscious workingmemory. In this paper, we focus on visual workingmemory and critically (...) examine these studies as well as studies of unconscious perception that seem to provide indirect evidence for unconscious workingmemory. Our analysis indicates that current evidence does not support an unconscious workingmemory store, though we offer independent reasons to think that workingmemory may operate on unconsciously perceived information. (shrink)
Blair equates the constructs of workingmemory (WM), executive function, and general fluid intelligence (gF). We argue that there is good reason not to equate these constructs. We view WM and gF as separable but highly related, and suggest that the mechanism behind the relationship is controlled attention – an ability that is dependent on normal functioning of the prefrontal cortex. (Published Online April 5 2006).
Although testing has repeatedly been shown to be one of the most effective strategies for consolidating retention of studied information (the backward testing effect) and facilitating mastery of new information (the forward testing effect), few studies have explored individual differences in the beneficial effects of testing. The current study recruited a large sample (1,032 participants) to explore the potential roles of workingmemory capacity and test anxiety in the enhancing effects of testing on new learning, and the converse (...) influence of testing on test anxiety. The results demonstrated that administering interim tests during learning appears to be an effective technique to potentiate new learning, regardless of workingmemory capacity and test anxiety. At a final test on all studied materials, individuals with low workingmemory capacity benefited more from interim testing than those with high workingmemory capacity. These testing effects are minimally modulated by levels of trait/state test anxiety, and low-stake interim testing neither reduced nor increased test anxiety. Overall, the results imply that low-stake interim tests can be administered to boost new learning irrespective of learners’ level of WMC, test anxiety, and of possible reactive effects of testing on test anxiety. (shrink)
High temporal resolution event-related brain potential and electroencephalographic coherence studies of the neural substrate of short-term storage in workingmemory indicate that the sustained coactivation of both prefrontal cortex and the posterior cortical systems that participate in the initial perception and comprehension of the retained information are involved in its storage. These studies further show that short-term storage mechanisms involve an increase in neural synchrony between prefrontal cortex and posterior cortex and the enhanced activation of long-term memory (...) representations of material held in short-term memory. This activation begins during the encoding/comprehension phase and evidently is prolonged into the retention phase by attentional drive from prefrontal cortex control systems. A parsimonious interpretation of these findings is that the long-term memory systems associated with the posterior cortical processors provide the necessary representational basis for workingmemory, with the property of short-term memory decay being primarily due to the posterior system. In this view, there is no reason to posit specialized neural systems whose functions are limited to those of short-term storage buffers. Prefrontal cortex provides the attentional pointer system for maintaining activation in the appropriate posterior processing systems. Short-term memory capacity and phenomena such as displacement of information in short-term memory are determined by limitations on the number of pointers that can be sustained by the prefrontal control systems. Key Words: coherence; event-related potentials; imaging; long-term memory; memory; short-term memory; workingmemory. (shrink)
Workingmemory is a foundational construct of cognitive psychology, where it is thought to be a capacity that enables us to keep information in mind and to use that information to support goal directed behavior. Philosophers have recently employed workingmemory to explain central cognitive processes, from consciousness to reasoning. In this paper, I show that workingmemory cannot meet even a minimal account of natural kindhood, as the functions of maintenance and manipulation of (...) information that tie workingmemory models and theories together do not have a coherent or univocal realizer in the brain. As such, workingmemory cannot explain central cognition. Rather, I argue that workingmemory merely redescribes its target phenomenon, and in doing so it obfuscates relevant distinctions amongst the many ways that brains like ours retain and transform information in the service of cognition. While this project ultimately erodes the explanatory role that workingmemory has played in our understanding of cognition, it simultaneously prompts us to evaluate the function of natural kinds within cognitive science, and signals the need for a productive pessimism to frame our future study of cognitive categories. (shrink)
Visual workingmemory is a construct hypothesized to store a small amount of accurate perceptual information that can be brought to bear on a task. Much research concerns the construct's capacity and the precision of the information stored. Two prominent theories of VWM representation have emerged: slot-based and continuous-resource mechanisms. Prior modeling work suggests that a continuous resource that varies over trials with variable capacity and a potential to make localization errors best accounts for the empirical data. Questions (...) remain regarding the variability in VWM capacity and precision. Using a novel eye-tracking paradigm, we demonstrate that VWM facilitates search and exhibits effects of fixation frequency and recency, particularly for prior targets. Whereas slot-based memory models cannot account for the human data, a novel continuous-resource model does capture the behavioral and eye tracking data, and identifies the relevant resource as item activation. (shrink)
WorkingMemory plays a crucial role in many high-level cognitive processes . The prevalent view holds that active components of WM are predominantly intentional and conscious. This conception is oftentimes expressed explicitly, but it is best reflected in the nature of major WM tasks: All of them are blatantly explicit. We developed two new WM paradigms that allow for an examination of the role of conscious awareness in WM. Results from five studies show that WM can operate unintentionally (...) and outside of conscious awareness, thus suggesting that the current view should be expanded to include implicit WM. (shrink)
Preschool children have been proven to possess nonsymbolic approximate arithmetic skills before learning how to manipulate symbolic math and thus before any formal math instruction. It has been assumed that nonsymbolic approximate math tasks necessitate the allocation of WorkingMemory (WM) resources. WM has been consistently shown to be an important predictor of children's math development and achievement. The aim of our study was to uncover the specific role of WM in nonsymbolic approximate math. For this purpose, we (...) conducted a dual-task study with preschoolers with active phonological, visual, spatial, and central executive interference during the completion of a nonsymbolic approximate addition dot task. With regard to the role of WM, we found a clear performance breakdown in the central executive interference condition. Our findings provide insight into the underlying cognitive processes involved in storing and manipulating nonsymbolic approximate numerosities during early arithmetic. (shrink)
A popular issue in mind is to explain why conscious mental states are conscious. Prinz (2012) defends three claims in an effort to make such an explanation: (i)mental states become conscious when and only when we attend to them; (ii)attention is a process by which mental states become available to workingmemory; so (iii) mental states are conscious when and only when they become available to workingmemory. Here I attack Prinz's theory, made explicit in (iii), (...) by showing that there is strong empirical reason to doubt each of the foregoing claims. I rehearse defenses of the claims Prinz has made, as well as possible replies he does not explicitly employ, and show how they are inadequate to save his view. (shrink)
Four experiments assessed the relative involvement of different workingmemory components in two types of reasoning tasks: propositional and spatial reasoning. Using the secondary-task methodology, visual, central-executive, and phonological loads were realised. Although the involvement of visuospatial resources in propositional reasoning has traditionally been considered to be small, an overall analysis of the present data suggests an alternative account. A theoretical analysis of the pattern of results in terms of Evans' (1984, 1989) twostage theory of reasoning is proposed (...) and tested in Experiments 3 and 4, in which direct evidence for the alternative account was obtained: significant disruption of propositional reasoning by a concurrent spatial load. (shrink)
Researchers have postulated that deficits in cognitive control are associated with, and thus may underlie, the perseverative thinking that characterises generalised anxiety disorder. We examined associations between cognitive control and levels of spontaneous state rumination following a stressor in a sample of healthy control participants and participants with GAD. We assessed cognitive control by measuring workingmemory capacity, defined as the ability to maintain task-relevant information by ignoring task-irrelevant information. To this end, we used an affective version of (...) the reading span task with valenced distractors. Lower WMC in the presence of negative distractors was associated with greater state rumination in the GAD group, but not in the CTL group. These findings suggest that difficulty maintaining task-relevant information due to interference from negative distractors contributes to perseverative thinking in GAD. (shrink)
Individuals with social anxiety disorder engage in post-event processing, a form of perseverative thinking. Given that deficits in workingmemory might underlie perseverative thinking, we examined workingmemory in SAD with a particular focus on the effects of stimulus valence. SAD and healthy control participants either maintained or reversed in workingmemory the order of four emotional or four neutral pictures, and we examined sorting costs, which reflect the extent to which performance deteriorated on (...) the backward trials compared to the forward trials. Emotionality of stimuli affected performance of the two groups differently. Whereas control participants exhibited higher sorting costs for emotional stimuli compared to neutral stimuli, SAD participants exhibited the opposite pattern. Greater attention to emotional stimuli in SAD might facilitate the processing of emotional stimuli in workingmemory. (shrink)
The Centered Mind offers a new view of the nature and causal determinants of both reflective thinking and, more generally, the stream of consciousness. Peter Carruthers argues that conscious thought is always sensory-based, relying on the resources of the working-memory system. This system enables sensory images to be sustained and manipulated through attentional signals directed at midlevel sensory areas of the brain. When abstract conceptual representations are bound into these images, we consciously experience ourselves as making judgments or (...) arriving at decisions. However, our amodal propositional attitudes are never actually among the contents of this stream of conscious reflection. Our beliefs, goals, and decisions are only ever active in the background of consciousness, working behind the scenes. They are never themselves conscious.Drawing on extensive knowledge of the scientific literature on workingmemory and related topics, Carruthers challenges the central assumptions of many philosophers. In addition to arguing that non-sensory propositional attitudes are never conscious, he also shows that they are never under direct intentional control. Written with his usual clarity and directness, The Centered Mind will be essential reading for all philosophers and cognitive scientists interested in the nature of human thought processes. (shrink)
This article reports three experiments that investigated the relationship between workingmemory capacity and syllogistic and five-term series spatial inference. A series of complex and simple verbal and spatial workingmemory measures were employed. Correlational analyses showed that verbal and spatial workingmemory span tasks consistently predicted syllogistic and spatial reasoning performance. A confirmatory factor analysis showed that three factors best accounted for the data--a verbal, a spatial, and a general factor. Syllogistic reasoning performance (...) loaded all three factors, whilst spatial reasoning loaded only the general factor. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of reasoning theories and contemporary accounts of the structure of workingmemory. (shrink)
In Parkinson’s disease, the fronto-striatal network is involved in motor and cognitive symptoms. Workingmemory updating training engages this network in healthy populations, as observed by improved cognitive performance and increased striatal BOLD signal. This two-part study aimed to assess the feasibility of WM updating training in PD and measure change in cognition, movement and functional brain response in one individual with PD after WM updating training. A feasibility and single-subject study were performed in which patients with PD (...) completed computerized WM updating training. The outcome measures were the pre-post changes in criterion and transfer cognitive tests; cognitive complaints; psychological health; movement kinematics; and task-related BOLD signal. Participants in the feasibility study showed improvements on the criterion tests at post-test. FL displayed the largest improvements on the criterion tests and smaller improvements on transfer tests. Furthermore, FL reported improved cognitive performance in everyday life. A shorter onset latency and smoother upper-limb goal-directed movements were measured at post-test, as well as increased activation within the striatum and decreased activation throughout the fronto-parietal WM network. This two-part study demonstrated that WM updating training is feasible to complete for PD patients and that change occurred in FL at post-test in the domains of cognition, movement and functional brain response. (shrink)
The ability to reason independently from one's own goals or beliefs has long been recognised as a key characteristic of the development of formal operational thought. In this article we present the results of a study that examined the correlates of this ability in a group of 10-year-old children ( N = 61). Participants were presented with conditional and relational reasoning items, where the content was manipulated such that the conclusion to the arguments were either congruent, neutral, or incongruent with (...) beliefs, and either logically valid or logically invalid. Participants also received a measure of workingmemory capacity (the counting span task) and a measure of inhibitory control (the stop signal task). Indices of belief bias and logical reasoning on belief-based problems were predicted independently by both measures. In contrast logical reasoning on belief neutral problems was predicted by workingmemory alone. The findings suggest that executive functions play a key role in the development of children's ability to decontextualise their thinking. (shrink)