Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Role of Response Selection and Input Monitoring in Solving Simple Arithmetical Products

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Role of Response Selection and Input Monitoring in Solving Simple Arithmetical Products

Article excerpt

Several studies have already shown that the central executive, as conceptualized in the working memory model of Baddeley and Hitch (1974), is important in simple mental arithmetic. Recently, attempts have been made to define more basic processes that underlie the "central executive." In this vein, monitoring, response selection, updating, mental shifting, and inhibition have been proposed as processes capturing executive control. Previous research has shown that secondary tasks that require a choice decision impair the calculation of simple sums, whereas input monitoring has not been found to be a sufficient condition to impair the calculation of sums (Deschuyteneer & Vandierendonck, 2005). In the present article, we report data on the role of input monitoring and response selection in solving simple arithmetical products. In four experiments, participants solved one-digit products (e.g., 5 × 7) in a single-task, as well as in a dual-task, condition. Just as for solving simple sums, the results show a strong involvement of response selection in the calculating of simple products, whereas input monitoring does not seem to impair the calculation of such products. These findings give additional evidence that response selection may be one of the processes needed for solving simple mental arithmetic problems.

The multicomponent working memory model of Baddeley and Hitch (1974) has been frequently used by researchers as a framework for their investigation of the role of working memory in mental arithmetic (see DeStefano & LeFevre, 2004, for a review). In this framework, working memory is conceived of as a system that is responsible for the temporary storage and processing of information in a variety of cognitive tasks and consists of four components: the central executive and three slave systemsnamely, the phonological loop, the visuospatial sketchpad, and the episodic buffer (Baddeley, 1986, 1990, 2000; Baddeley & Hitch, 1974). According to Baddeley and Hitch, the central executive is a modality-free limited-capacity attentional system that, among other things, controls the three slave systems during cognitive tasks. The phonological loop and the visuospatial sketchpad are responsible for the storage and the processing of verbal and visual/spatial information, respectively. The episodic buffer, which is a third, recently proposed slave system (Baddeley, 2000), is supposed to integrate information of the other two slave systems with information from episodic memory.

Most of the researchers who have studied the role of working memory in mental arithmetic have used the dualtask methodology, in which participants are required to perform two tasks concurrently (a primary and a secondary task). The general idea behind this method is that when performance on the primary task (e.g., an arithmetic task) is impaired while a secondary task that taxes specific cognitive functions is performed concurrently, it can be concluded that one or more of these cognitive functions are also involved in the primary task. A frequently replicated finding with this selective interference paradigm is that the central executive is involved in solving both simple and complex mental arithmetic problems (De Rammelaere, Stuyven, & Vandierendonck, 1999, 2001; De Rammelaere & Vandierendonck, 2001 ; Furst & Hitch, 2000; Hitch, 1978; Lemaire, Abdi, & Fayol, 1996; Logie, Gilhooly, & Wynn, 1994; Noël, Désert, Aubrun, & Seron, 2001; Seitz & Schumann-Hengsteler, 2000, 2002). The central executive is assumed to be responsible for controlling the calculations of the arithmetic problems.

Until now, the central executive has been conceptualized in the working memory model as a unitary system. There are, however, a number of indications that there are different components of executive functioning, such as input and output monitoring, inhibition, response selection, and memory updating (Baddeley, 1996; Miyake et al. …

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