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Mem Cognit. 2006 Jan;34(1):158-71.

Complex span tasks, simple span tasks, and cognitive abilities: a reanalysis of key studies.

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  • 1Facultad de Psicolog√≠a, Universidad Aut√≥noma de Madrid, Spain.


There is great interest in the relationships between memory span tasks and cognitive abilities. However, the causes underlying their correlation remain unknown. In the present article, five key data sets were reanalyzed according to two criteria: They must consider complex span tasks (so-called working memory [WM] tasks) and simple span tasks (so-called short-term memory [STM] tasks), and they must comprise cognitive ability measures. The obtained results offer several points of interest. First, memory span tasks should be conceived from a hierarchical perspective: They comprise both general and specific components. Second, the general component explains about four times the variance explained by the specific components. Third, STM and WM measures are closely related. Fourth, STM and WM measures share the same common variance with cognitive abilities. Finally, the strong relationship usually found between memory span tasks and cognitive abilities could be tentatively interpreted by the component shared by STM and WM--namely, the capacity for temporarily preserving a reliable memory representation of any given information.

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