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Memory: Working Memory Model | AQA A-Level Psychology


Last updated 22 Dec 2023

This topic quiz tests A-Level Psychology students' knowledge and understanding of the working memory model.

Click here for the quiz: Memory: Working Memory Model | AQA A-Level Psychology

Academic Summary: Working Memory Model

The Working Memory Model (WMM), proposed by Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch in 1974, is a prominent cognitive theory explaining how we hold and manipulate information in the short term. Unlike the earlier Multi-Store Model, which viewed short-term memory (STM) as a unitary passive store, the WMM depicts it as a more active and multifaceted system with specialized components:

1. Central Executive:

  • Acts as the "control center", allocating attention and coordinating processes throughout the system.
  • Responsible for planning, decision-making, and multitasking.
  • Limited capacity, easily overloaded by complex tasks or distractions.

2. Phonological Loop:

  • Processes and temporarily stores auditory and verbal information.
  • Consists of two subcomponents:
    • Articulatory loop: Subvocal rehearsal of sound-based information ("inner voice").
    • Phonological store: Holds the auditory content and its sequential order.
  • Primarily involved in tasks like remembering phone numbers, repeating instructions, and comprehending spoken language.

[Image depicting the Phonological Loop with its subcomponents: Articulatory Loop and Phonological Store]

3. Visuo-spatial Sketchpad:

  • Processes and temporarily stores visual and spatial information.
  • Responsible for mental imagery, navigation, and spatial reasoning.
  • Limited capacity, can be disrupted by visual distractions.

[Image representing the Visuo-spatial Sketchpad]

4. Episodic Buffer (added later):

  • Integrates information across the other components and links it to long-term memory.
  • Creates a coherent sense of the present moment and provides context for ongoing thought.

Strengths of the WMM:

  • Explains a wider range of cognitive phenomena than the Multi-Store Model.
  • Accounts for parallel processing of different types of information.
  • Supported by numerous experimental findings, including neuroimaging studies.
  • Has practical applications in education, cognitive rehabilitation, and forensic psychology.

Limitations of the WMM:

  • Overly simplified view of a complex cognitive system.
  • Precise roles and interactions of components remain debated.
  • Difficulty defining and measuring working memory capacity.
  • Needs further development to incorporate individual differences and cultural variations.

Overall, the Working Memory Model remains a valuable framework for understanding how we hold and manipulate information in the short term. Its multi-component structure and emphasis on active processing have significantly advanced our understanding of short-term memory and its crucial role in various cognitive functions.

Further Resources:

  • Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 8, 47-90.
  • Miyake, A., & Shah, P. (1999). Models of working memory: Mechanisms and capacity. In C. M. Shah & A. Miyake (Eds.), Models of working memory: Mechanisms and capacity (pp. 11-43). Cambridge University Press.
  • Cowan, N. (2001). The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 87-114.

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