the working memory model

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Key features of the working memory model

  • 1.       Central executive
  • 2.       The phonological loop
  • 3.       Visual spatial pad
  • 4.       (episodic buffer )

REMEMBER THAT; working memory is a model of STM DO NOT criticise the model for not explaining LTM IT DOSE NOT INTEDND TO! 

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central executive

This the most important part of the model and it is involved in problem solving/ decision making. It controls attention

It also controls the other slave systems i.e. visual spatial sketch pad/ phonological loop 

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phonological loop

Phonological loop stores a number of speech based sounds for brief periods thought to consist of two components

Phonological store (inner ear) allows acoustically coded items to be stored for a brief period

The articulatory control process (the inner voice) allows subvocal repetition of the items stored in the phonological store: repetition can be prevented by articulartory suppression  

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visuo- spatial scratch pad

Stores visual and spatial information and can be thought of as an inner eye

It is responsible for setting up and manipulating mental images

Like the phonological loop it has a limited capacity but the limits of the two systems are independent 

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remember that

It is possible to carry out two tasks that use different slave systems by not two tasks that use the same slave system  

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evaluation advantages

The WMM appears to have number advantages over the concept of STM as outlined in the multi store model. It effectively explains our ability to carry out tasks such as mental arithmetic by storing information briefly while at the same time actively processing it.

Evidence supporting the phonological loop: E.g. Baddely et al  (75) conducted a series of studies that investigated word lenth however when Ps were prevented from rehearsing the words sub vocally by being asked to repeat am irrelevant sound the word length effect disappeared - short words were not recalled any better then the long words

It is assumed that articulatory suppression task fills the phonological loop/ therefore removes the advantage of rehearsal   

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The main weakness is the component we know least about the central executive is the most important part it has a limited capacity but no one has been able to quantify it experimentally

The validity of the research findings; some critics say that we make assumptions from the model that might not be true. For example we assume that two tasks that can be done simultaneously are processed in different parts of the WM but if we cannot do them together then they are competing for the same part of the WM. This is called a circular augment.

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working memory is chess Robbins et al 96

Aim; to study the role of the CE in remembering chess positions by investigating the effect of  generating random letter strings 

Procedure: 20 chess players asked to memorize in 10 secs the positions of 16 chess pieces from a real game of chess, procedure repeated 20 times using a different game each time 

While memorizing the positions Ps either  

  • Simultaneously engaged the CE by generating random letter sequences or 
  • Simultaneously carried out articiculatory suppression task 

After 10 secs Ps memory was tested by asking them to arrange chess pieces on another chess board to match those they had just seen 

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working memory is chess contunied


  • Ps in the aritcualtory suppression condition performed well
  • Ps in the letter generation condition performed poorly  


Impaired functioning of those generating the letter sequences demonstrated that the CE played a role in remembering the chess positions

The good performance of Ps in the AS condition indicated that the phonological loop was not involved in remembering the chess positions 

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evaluation of Robbins et al

This well designed study enables us to conclude that the different tasks did cause the poor performance

Generating meaningless letter sequences has been claimed by many cognitive psychologists as a valid way of engaging the CE as it requires considerable attention   

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study of word leangh effect on immediate memory sp

Aim:  to see if people could remember more short words then long words in a serial recall task

 P: Ps had to view brief visual presentations of lists of words either short words with one syllable or longer words with multi syllable words Ps had to write down the 5 words in serial order immediately after the presentation- recalled lists of long/ short words 

F: Ps recalled more short words then long words, recall as may words as they were able to articulate in about 2 secs

Concluded that the loop can hold as many items that can be said in 1.5 to 2 seconds so the loop has a time limit rather than being limited by items

E: it may be that short words are easier to recall then long words more familiar to us 

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