Section B - Memory
08 Discuss what psychological research has shown about working memory. In your answer, refer to theory and/or evidence. [12 marks]
Suggested Answer: The working memory model (WMM) was proposed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974) to account for some of the limitations of the multi-store model. They felt that short-term memory consists of multiple stores and not just one unitary store and that STM is an active process (hence working memory). The central executive controls the WMM and directs attention to one of three slave systems. The phonological loops deal with auditory information and contains the phonological store which holds the words you hear and the articulatory control process which allows for maintenance rehearsal of acoustic information. The visuo-spatial sketchpad (VSS) is used for the planning of spatial tasks. The VSS contains the visual cache which stores visual information and the inner scribe which deals with spatial relationships and stores the arrangement of objects in the visual field. In 2000, Baddeley added the episodic buffer which is a general store for both visual and acoustic information. The purpose of the episodic buffer is to integrate information from the other three components and send information to long-term memory.
One strength of the working memory models comes from dual task studies. Hitch and Baddeley (1976) found that participants were slower in a dual task study that involved both the central executive and the articulatory loop, in comparison to a task which just required just the articulatory loop. This supports the idea of multiple components within STM and demonstrates the existence of a separate central executive and articulatory loop, therefore supporting the WMM over its predecessor the multi-store model.
Further support the WMM comes from case studies. Shallice and Warrington (1970) studied a man called KF whose short-term forgetting of auditory information was much greater than his forgetting of visual information. This provides further support to the idea of separate components in STM, indicating a separate component for auditory and visual information.
However, one limitation of the working memory model is that it only focused on short-term memory. The working memory model provides a detailed description of our short-term memory, but no information on the sensory register and long-term memory. The WMM is not a complete model of memory and is therefore limited in its application to everyday human memory and is unable to explain how information arrives into our working memory and how information is stored in the long-term.
Exam Hint: This question was poorly answered and many students focused on the methodology of research studies when the question says ‘has shown’. Therefore, students were required to discuss the findings/conclusions in relation to the WMM and not the method. Furthermore, the question says ‘research’ which means studies or theories and therefore it was legitimate to discuss the theory of working memory, as outlined above. Finally, while discussions were often based on evidence (e.g. dual task studies) many students failed to fully elaborate their evaluation.
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