Working Memory

Christian Stapfer chstapfer at nospam.bluewin.ch
Tue Jun 13 11:23:15 EST 2000

jste wrote:
> Encyclopædia Britannica
> Memory is one of the most widely studied cognitive functions,
> and a number of different aspects of memory are recognized.
> The labels short-term memory, primary memory, and working
> memory refer to the temporary storage of information that
> is necessary for the performance of many cognitive tasks.
> In order to understand this sentence, for example, a reader
> must maintain the first half of the sentence in working
> memory while reading the second half. This working memory
> has been graphically described as the memory one uses to
> hold a telephone number in mind after looking it up in a
> directory and while dialing. The capacity of working memory
> is limited, and it decays if not rehearsed.
> Simple but adequate I think

>From reading "Comprehension: A Paradigm for Cognition"
(Walter Kintsch, 1998) I get the impression that the
above definition is not 'adequate', and that a truly
adequate definition of 'working memory' is not likely
to be all that simple.
    Neither the traditionally assumed severe capacity
limits (7 +/- 2), nor the idea of moving content from
long-term memory to short-term ('working') memory and
back, seem to be generally valid.
    Kintsch uses the terms 'short-term working memory'
(ST-WM) and 'long-term working memory' (LT-WM), as well
as the idea of 'retrieval structures' in order to theorize
the role of 'working memory' in text understanding.

Christian Stapfer

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