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Working Memory and Its Components

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1. What is working memory? Please describe the components of working memory and discuss the status of empirical evidence for each of them.

Working memory and its components

The term working memory refers to that portion of memory used for temporary storage when doing cognitive tasks like multiplying numbers, solving syllogisms or remembering something a lecturer said before writing it down. It stores information intermediately as it is worked with. Working memory can thus be compared to a sketchpad. Working memory is characterized by the rapid turnover of the information it contains and its limited storage capacity. Psychologist George Miller proposed that working memory could hold about seven bits of information; further research into the matter however, has revealed a more nuanced picture. The neurological structures active in working memory seem to be located in the frontal lobes of the human brain.

Working memory is divided into separate components, each component dealing with a different type of information. The research points to one component for verbal (auditory) information and a separate component for visual information. The phonological loop and the visuospatial sketchpad. An overarching component of working memory is the central executive, responsible for the integration of the various components of working memory and selecting only the relevant information.

Other research further divides visual working memory information into separate components of spatial information and information about objects. The research leading to notions of such components is what will be discussed in this text. Recently, Alan Baddely proposed a new component of working memory, the episodic buffer. This "new" proposed component allows us to keep an episode in mind for processing. However, since this component is so new, little research into the neurological origins of it has been done and it will not be discussed in this text.

Research into verbal and visual components of working memory

A phonological loop, where verbal information can be kept is believed to exist as a separate component of working memory. Research has found that verbal working memory task does not interfere with spatial working memory tasks. Furthermore, visual working memory tasks cause neural activation in the right frontal lobe, and verbal working memory tasks cause neural activation in the left frontal lobe. In humans with lesions in just one of the frontal lobes there is impaired performance on the corresponding set of working memory tasks. This suggests that verbal information (left frontal



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