Working Memory in Perspective

Working Memory in Perspective

Working Memory in Perspective

Working Memory in Perspective


The Baddeley and Hitch (1974) Working Memory model holds a central place in experimental psychology and continues to be extremely successful in guiding and stimulating research in applied and theoretical domains. Yet the model now faces challenges from conflicting data and competing theories. In this book, experienced researchers in the field address the question: Will the model survive these challenges? They explain why it is so successful, evaluate its weaknesses with respect to opposing data and theories and present their vision of the future of the model in their particular area of research. The book includes a discussion of the "Episodic Buffer" component which has recently been added to the working memory model. The result is a comprehensive and critical assessment of the working memory model and its contribution to current research in human cognition, cognitive development, neuroscience and computational modelling. Furthermore, this collection serves as a case study to illustrate the range of factors that determine the success or failure of a theory and as a forum for discussing what researchers want from scientific theories. The book begins with an accessible introduction to the model for those new to the field and explains the empirical methods used in working memory research. It concludes by highlighting areas of consensus and suggesting a programme of research to address issues of continuing controversy. Working Memory in Perspective will be a valuable resource to students and researchers alike in the fields of human memory, language, thought and cognitive development.


The model of working memory proposed by Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch in 1974 is one of the longest lived and most widely used models in cognitive psychology. This book was inspired by my suspicion that many of the researchers who used the model did so despite unease about its imperfections. It seeks to evaluate the working memory model more critically and comprehensively than is possible in journal papers. Achieving this aim involved a huge amount of hard work and commitment from the contributors. The process began with each contributor submitting a draft chapter which evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the working memory model, compared it with competing models in their field, and commented on their vision of the future of the model. Each contributor reviewed the chapters of several other contributors. We then met for three days to discuss our chapters and try to reach a consensus in our evaluation of the working memory model. This meeting was funded by the US Army, European Research Office under contract number N68171-99-M-6084. I am very grateful for their support, and particularly for the encouragement I received from Dr Michael Strub, then at the European Research Office. I would like to thank Victor Buchanan and his staff at The White Swan hotel, Pickering, North Yorkshire, for keeping us so comfortable and well fed that the long hours of heated discussion flew past.

After the Pickering meeting, contributors revised their chapters, often extensively, re-read other people’s revisions, and commented on my Introduction and Conclusion chapters. I then asked them to revise their chapters again, to ensure consistency of style and coherence of arguments across the book as a whole. I am indebted to all the contributors for the exceptional effort they have devoted to this project. In particular, I would like to thank Jon May for helping with every aspect of the book, inside and outside of working hours, and John Towse for his unflagging efforts at perfecting my own chapters.

Three editors helped to bring this project to fruition. I am grateful to Vivien Ward for her enthusiasm and encouragement, and to Caroline Osborne, Kristin Susser and staff at Psychology Press for guidance during preparation of the manuscript.


Sheffield, March 2001

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