Stitching time onto a tree: joining models of accuracy with response times to understand cognition

“Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst.” —William Penn There are many dimensions of human behavior. Consider a typical recognition memory task in which a participant is given a list of words to remember. A little while later, suppose this participant is shown the word “bear” and asked whether it […]

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A little explanation goes a long way (and further than facts)

Many of our beliefs are factually wrong. For example, according to the General Social Survey, roughly 20% of Americans polled in 2014 think that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Although such incorrect beliefs are a justified source of dismay to educators and scientists, they have little bearing on our everyday life. A sunset would […]

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Working memory workout: Training bench presses does not help you throw a ball

Few areas of psychology research are as controversial as ‘brain training’. For the last 10 years, we have seen an influx of apps and games that purport to improve users’ cognitive capabilities. The appeal is simple. Play a game, get smarter. The controversy, as we’ve covered here, is that unbiased research on whether brain training […]

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Fortifying memory after encoding: Internal and external attention and visual short-term memory

You are in the cognitive laboratory and you focus on the screen in front of you. A few color patches are flashed for 1/10th of a second, and 2 seconds later another array of patches appears that stays on the screen until you respond. Your task is to decide whether any one of the patches […]

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Sleeping on banara and the fate of banana: consolidation of new words in the lexicon

How do we recognize the written word? While this seems trivially easy to us, we need to remember that words that are quite close perceptually can be drastically different in meaning. Fin and fine, crew and crow, and deck and desk may look nearly the same but their meanings differ considerably. In the sentence “I […]

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#whatWM? Playing ‘telephone’ with working memory or the War of the Ghosts 2.0

In his recent article in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review that stimulated this digital event, Nelson Cowan undertakes the impressive endeavor to disentangle the various definitions of working memory (WM) that have been around in the literature since the term WM was coined. He does so to counter the confusion that the use of different […]

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#whatWM? Definitions of working memory do not need provocative claims

I was sitting in the audience, listening to a symposium speaker field questions, when someone asked about working memory. “Working memory? Does anyone actually believe in that anymore?” was the speaker’s reply, and from the inside of my narrowly-focused scientific bubble, it astonished me. I had only recently taken up my first tenure-track position as […]

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#whatWM? e pluribus unum: Consensus despite diversity

Nelson Cowan’s review of definitions of “working memory” provides a very useful overview of the different ways in which the term has been and is still being used in the literature, and the potential confusion that can be caused by its multi-faceted meaning. Cowan identified nine definitions spanning multiple disciplines and several decades of research, […]

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#whatWM? A digital event celebrating the 9 lives of working memory

Type “working memory” into Google Scholar and you get nearly 2,000,000 results. Topping the list is the paper “working memory” by Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch, which has been cited more than 12,000 times since its publication in 1974. The Web of Science search engine is slightly more modest, with around 54,000 scientific publications being […]

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