A Precise Measure of Working Memory Reveals Subjects Difficulties Managing Limited Capacity

Ershova, Regina and Tarnow, Eugen (2016) A Precise Measure of Working Memory Reveals Subjects Difficulties Managing Limited Capacity. [Preprint]

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Free recall consists of two separate stages: the emptying of working memory and reactivation [1]. The Tarnow Unchunkable Test (TUT, [2]) uses double integer items to separate out only the first stage by making it difficult to reactivate items due to the lack of intra-item relationships. 193 Russian college students were tested via the internet version of the TUT. The average number of items remembered in the 3 item test was 2.54 items. In the 4 item test, the average number of items decreased to 2.38. This, and a number of other qualitative distribution differences between the 3 and 4 item tests, indicates that the average capacity limit of working memory has been reached at 3 items. This provides the first direct measurement of the unchunkable capacity limit of language based items. That the average number of items remembered decreased as the number of items increased from 3 to 4 indicates that most subjects were unable to manage their working memories as the number of items increased just beyond the average capacity. Further evidence for the difficulty in managing the capacity limit is that 25% of subjects could not remember any items correctly at least in one of three 4 item tests and that the Pearson correlation between the 3 item and 4 item subject recalls was a relatively small 38%. This failure of managing a basic memory resource should have important consequences for pedagogy including instruction, text book design and test design. Because working memory scores are important for academic achievement, it also suggests that an individual can gain academically by learning how to manage her or his capacity limit.

Item Type:Preprint
Keywords:working memory capacity, working memory test, working memory management
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Neuroscience > Neuropsychology
ID Code:10088
Deposited By: Tarnow, Dr. Eugen
Deposited On:24 Mar 2016 19:12
Last Modified:24 Mar 2016 19:12

References in Article

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[1] Tarnow E (2015) First direct evidence of two stages in free recall and three corresponding estimates of working memory capacity. PFUR Bulletin 2015-4, p. 15-26.

[2] Tarnow, E. (2013). U.S. Patent Application No. 14/066,195.

[3]Murdock, B. B. (1974). Human memory: Theory and data. Lawrence Erlbaum.

[4] Murdock B (1962) The serial position effect of free recall Journal of Experimental Psychology 64(5) 482-488.

[5] Tarnow E (2015). Large individual differences in free recall.

[6] Deese J (1959) On the prediction of occurrence of particular verbal intrusions in immediate recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology 58(1) 17-22

[7] Alloway, T. P., & Alloway, R. G. (2010). Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment. Journal of experimental child psychology, 106(1), 20-29.


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