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Flashcards in Memory (Part 2) Working Memory Deck (14):

Working Memory (Alan Baddeley)

Baddeley & Hitch (1974) / Baddeley (2000) suggested a different model as an alternative to the classical STM model

They called it “working memory” (WM) to emphasise that information in this store is not passively stored, but actively manipulated (you work with it!)


Working memory is characterised by...

Limited capacity

It can retain information over a period of seconds to minutes

It is possible to perform mental operations on the contents

The focus of the model is on manipulating information


Working Memory

The original model had three components

The phonological loop and the visuospatial sketchpad serve the maintenance of information in WM

The role of the central executive is the control of mental operations


Phonological Loop

The phonological loop utilises sound-based codes for representing information

It uses rehearsal process – similar to the classical model of STM

Its functions are maintenance of all verbal information (or material that can be represented using a verbal code), but also language comprehension and acquisition


Evidence of the Phonological Loop

Baddeley and colleagues (and others) conduced a series of experiments to show that (and how) the phonological loop operates

Phonological similarity effect:
The similarity effect describes the problem that verbally similar items are more difficult to remember because their phonological codes are easy to be mixed up and interfere


Phonological Similarity effect

The similarity effect describes the problem that verbally similar items are more difficult to remember because their phonological codes are easy to be mixed up and interfere


Unattended Speech Effect

Speech-based sounds disrupt performance when trying to remember letters

The reason for that is that speech taps into same resource as rehearsal

This means, the phonological loop is already “occupied” with irrelevant material


Word Length Effect

It is easier to rehearse mono-syllabic words than poly-syllabic words

The reason is that long words take more time for the phonological loop for rehearsal. While one word is rehearsed, the others already decay!


Visuo- spatial sketchpad

It temporarily holds visually based representations in WM

These could be faces, objects, and written words

It is also important to manipulate mental images, handle visual memories, or perform mental rotation

The sketchpad is an independent system from the phonological loop that was not included in STM model


Dual Task Paradigms

These experiments required the performance of a verbal task and a visual task simultaneously

They demonstrated that there was no interference between modalities


Visuo-spatial sketchpad and brain damage

Another approach is to investigate performance of brain damaged patients

Damage to discrete parts of the brain demonstrate a dissociation between both systems

The phonological loop is associated with a left-hemisphere parietal lobe network, while the visuospatial sketchpad is compromised by damage to the right parieto-occipital region


Central Executive

The central executive is a system that controls the operations of working memory, thus the phonological loop and sketchpad

It allocates attentional resources and adjusts goal priorities moment by moment (Jonides, 1995)

The central executive is a capacity-limited attentional system, not memory itself!

It also relates the working memory sub-systems to information from long-term memory


Functions of the Central Executive

The central executive a rather vague concept, because it has a lot of functions. It is related to (or shares functions with) other general high-level control systems and concepts, such as:

cognitive control
prefrontal / parietal “multi-demand” network
the homunculus
the self
fluid intelligence
prospective memory


Episodic Buffer

Later, Baddeley (2000) included another sub-system to his working memory model: the episodic buffer

He realised that his WM model did not explain the transfer of personal memory well enough

The episodic buffer is conceptualised as a storage system, binding information from a number of sources

It is involved in creating coherent episodes and in the transfer of learning to LTM