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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2004 Mar;133(1):83-100.

Time constraints and resource sharing in adults' working memory spans.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Etude de I'Apprentissage et du Developpement, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 5022, Universite de Bourgogne, Pôle AAFE, Esplanade Erasme, BP 26513, 21065 Dijon, France.


This article presents a new model that accounts for working memory spans in adults, the time-based resource-sharing model. The model assumes that both components (i.e., processing and maintenance) of the main working memory tasks require attention and that memory traces decay as soon as attention is switched away. Because memory retrievals are constrained by a central bottleneck and thus totally capture attention, it was predicted that the maintenance of the items to be recalled depends on both the number of memory retrievals required by the intervening treatment and the time allowed to perform them. This number of retrievals:time ratio determines the cognitive load of the processing component. The authors show in 7 experiments that working memory spans vary as a function of this cognitive load.

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