Evolution of Models of Working Memory and Cognitive Resources

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Abstract

The goal of this article is to trace the evolution of models of working memory and cognitive resources from the early 20th century to today. Linear flow models of information processing common in the 1960s and 1970s centered on the transfer of verbal information from a limited-capacity short-term memory store to long-term memory through rehearsal. Current conceptions see working memory as a dynamic system that includes both maintaining and manipulating information through a series of interactive components that include executive control and attentional resources. These models also reflect the evolution from an almost exclusive concentration on working memory for verbal materials to inclusion of a visual working memory component. Although differing in postulated mechanisms and emphasis, these evolving viewpoints all share the recognition that human information processing is a limited-capacity system with limits on the amount of information that can be attended to, remain activated in memory, and utilized at one time. These limitations take on special importance in spoken language comprehension, especially when the stimuli have complex linguistic structures or listening effort is increased by poor acoustic quality or reduced hearing acuity.

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