Components of Working Memory Model


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“Have you ever felt that life is all memory, except for each passing event which you can’t even catch?” Memory involves processes like retaining, retrieving, and using information about stimuli, ideas, events, and skills after the authentic information no longer exists. But how do we understand these processes? Richard Atkinson proposed the modal model of memory in the 1960s which had structural features: sensory memory, short–term memory, and long-term memory. Here, we are interested in STM. STM in the modal model of memory was considered to be a passive buffer store, which holds information for about, say up to 30 seconds. The term working memory seemed to be first coined by Miller, Pribram, and Galanter(1960). According to Alan Baddeley, WM serves as the site for both executing and storing processes.WM plays a crucial role in manipulating and holding information for complex tasks such as comprehension, learning, and reasoning. According to Baddeley, WM is dynamic. The term WM can be used in 3 different ways in different areas of cognitive science. In cognitive psychology, generally refers to a limited capacity system that allows generally temporary storage and manipulation of information necessary for complex tasks. Because the animal learning lab refers to the storage of information across several trials performed within the same day(an example can be radial arm maze). Artificial Intelligence, generally refers to the component responsible for holding the productions.

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So, how well is working memory working? Is working memory a unitary system or does it involve a multi-component?

Baddeley and Hitch(1974) proposed a three-component model of working memory. So far… The working memory model has replaced the idea of a unitary component STM with a multi-component. WM helps to explain the tasks- such as verbal reasoning, reading, comprehension, problem solving, and visual and spatial reasoning.

WM only involves STM and it does not include SM or LTM. The model applies to real-life tasks:

  • Reading(phonological loop)
  • Problem-solving (central executive)
  • Navigation model(Visual and spatial processing)

The KF case study supports the WM model. KF suffered brain damage from a motorcycle accident that damaged his STM. He thus had verbal impairment. Although, his memory responsible for visual information was largely unaffected. This proved that there are separate STM components for verbal information (phonological loop) and visual information(VSS).

Revisiting the Phonological Loop

One of the strengths of the phonological loop is that it gives a coherent account of a relatively complex set of data. It is sensibly applicable to patients with STM deficits. Also, it has been strongly admitted that the phonological loop has evolved to help to acquire native language in children and adult second-language learning. The research is done so far in working memory although answered many questions since there is no free lunch in this world, there are some weaknesses in the model proposed too.

Although the phonological loop model gave a rich account of a complex set of data, it was still not clear what biological system, if any, was served by this system. Consider an example, Neath and Nairne (1995) and Brown and Hulme have suggested that that the word length effect stems from the greater fragility of the multicomponent long words to the processes involved in forgetting. Also, the 1960s issue of whether short-term forgetting represents trace decay or interference remains unresolved. Consider an experiment, participants were asked to remember sequences comprised of alternate similar and dissimilar letters(say, T, W, B, R, P, X), errors occurred with the similar letters rather than on the dissimilar ones following them; the model failed to give any idea about how the serial order of the incoming items is maintained.

Revisiting the Visuospatial Sketchpad

This component temporarily maintains and manipulates the visuospatial information. Liebermann criticized the WM model as the visuospatial sketchpad(VSS) implied that all spatial information was first visual. However, he says out that blind people have good spatial awareness, even though they have never had any visual information. He thus argues that the VSS should be segregated into two different parts: one for visual and the other for spatial. A key issue within this area is the nature of visuospatial rehearsal. According to Logie(1995), the spatial component of the system termed the inner scribe can be regarded as the basic mechanisms for rehearsal. Both neuropsychological evidence and functional imaging evidence support the idea that the sketchpad should be a multi-component system. However, dissecting the subcomponents of the sketchpad has proved more challenging than separating the phonological loop.

Revisiting the Central Executive

The greatest advantage of the central executive is that it is responsible for monitoring and coordinating the operation of the phonological loop and VSS and it relates them to LTM. The key feature of the central executive is that of dividing attention. In a case study on AD( Alzheimer’s disease), patients were asked to combine tasks depending mainly on the phonological loop and VSS. When performed alone in each case, the level of performance was equivalent for AD patients and both young and elderly people. However, when performed on a dual-task basis, the performance by AD was impaired and not by age. The most potential executive capacity is that of switching attention. However, the problem of whether task switching should be considered as an executive processor range of certain processes remains to be solved.

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