Working Memory and Thinking

Working Memory and Thinking

Working Memory and Thinking

Working Memory and Thinking

Synopsis

Thinking and memory are inextricably linked. However, a "divide and rule" approach has led cognitive psychologists to study these two areas in relative isolation. With contributions from some of the leading international researchers on working memory and thinking, the present volume aims to break down the scientific divisions and foster scientific integration in the connections between these two core functions of cognition. Broadly defined, thinking comprises mentally driven change in current representations. The processes involved in such change include application of logical rules, heuristics, problem solving strategies, decision making, planning and comprehension of complex material. Memory involves the encoding, retention and retrieval of information, and the retention may be temporary or in a long-term knowledge base.; Thinking cannot occur in a vacuum; it relies on the long-term memory base and a temporary mental workspace. Despite the apparent limitations on mental workspace, humans can drive a car and hold a conversation, or store partial solutions while tackling other aspects of a problem. So too, some aspects of thinking are relatively resilient in the face of quite extensive brain damage, yet other aspects are remarkably vulnerable to neuroanatomical insults. Humans can solve complex problems with many alternative choice points and yet seem to be able to consider only a few hypotheses at any one time. These apparent paradoxes present significant scientific challenges as to how humans can be such successful thinkers despite their very limited working memory. The chapters herein represent a diversity of views as regards the nature or working memory and forms of human thinking. The links between working memory and thinking are directly addressed and made explicit, and in so doing this volume offers an increasingly integrated understanding of human thinking and memory.

Excerpt

Kenneth J. Gilhooly and Robert H. Logie
University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

Thinking and memory are inextricably linked. However a “divide-and-rule” approach has led cognitive psychologists to study these two areas in relative isolation. The present volume aims to break down the scientific divisions and foster scientific integration in the connections between these two core functions of cognition. We define thinking broadly as mentally driven change in current representations. The processes involved in such change would include application of logical rules, heuristics, strategies typically aimed at solving problems, making decisions, planning, and comprehension of complex material. Memory involves the encoding, retention, and retrieval of information, and the retention may be temporary or in a long-term knowledge base. Thinking cannot occur in a vacuum; it relies on the long-term knowledge base and a temporary workspace. Each chapter in this volume addresses different aspects of the interaction between thinking and differing conceptions of the mental temporary workspace known as working memory. The chapters by Gilhooly, Phillips and Forshaw, Della Sala and Logie, and Saariluoma espouse the multiple-component view of working memory in which different task demands are met by differing, specialised working-memory components (Baddeley, 1986). Each component then draws on relevant information in the long-term knowledge base. Engle sits astride the multiple-component view of working memory and the dominant North American “modal model” of a single flexible resource for differing forms of processing and storage. Both Halford, and Ericsson and Delaney focus on the development of knowledge structures. In the

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