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Mem Cognit. 2000 Jul;28(5):774-82.

Separate roles for executive and phonological components of working memory in mental arithmetic.

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Lancaster University, England.


A dual-task methodology was used to investigate the roles played by executive and phonological aspects of working memory in mental arithmetic. Experiment 1 showed that suppression of articulation impaired the ability to add a pair of briefly presented three-digit numbers. Suppression had no effect when the need to store temporarily was minimized by making the numbers visible throughout calculation. Experiment 2 showed that disrupting executive processes by requiring concurrent performance of a Trails task impaired the ability to add numbers that remained permanently visible. Performance on the Trails task deteriorated as the number of carry operations in the addition increased. Experiment 3 showed that this decline in Trails performance was not simply due to the extra time taken by carrying. These and other features of the results suggest that the carrying component of mental arithmetic places substantial demands on executive processes, whereas the need to retain problem information is met by the phonological loop. The results are consistent with an interpretation of executive processes according to which there is a limit on the capacity to inhibit strongly primed routine operations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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