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Is there a relationship between task demand and storage space in tests of working memory capacity?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1995
<mark>Journal</mark>The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number1
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)108-124
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper considers working memory capacity, critically examining the hypothesis that counting span (the ability to count arrays of objects and store count totals) reflects a trade-off in resources available for processing and short-term storage. Previous evidence interpreted as favouring this hypothesis has confounded task difficulty with counting time. Experiment 1 validated a manipulation of the attentional demands of counting in which target objects were differentiated from non-targets by either a single feature (colour) or a feature conjunction (a combination of line orientations). The results confirmed that the two presentations involved qualitatively different attentional loads. Experiment 2 used these displays to compare counting span for children aged 6 to 11, both with and without an adjustment of target numerosity to control for differences in processing time. At all ages, span was lower when counting took longer, but there was no difference between feature and conjunction arrays once counting time was accounted for. These results argue against a resource trade-off interpretation of counting span. Rather, they support a hypothesis of resource-switching among children, implying that counting span acts as a measure of time-based forgetting.