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Psychol Bull. 2007 Nov;133(6):1038-66.

On the division of short-term and working memory: an examination of simple and complex span and their relation to higher order abilities.

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Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-3013, USA.


Research has suggested that short-term memory and working memory (as measured by simple and complex span tasks, respectively) are separate constructs that are differentially related to higher order cognitive abilities. This claim is critically evaluated by reviewing research that has compared simple and complex span tasks in both experimental and correlational studies. In addition, a meta-analysis and re-analyses of key data sets were conducted. The review and analyses suggest that simple and complex span tasks largely measure the same basic subcomponent processes (e.g., rehearsal, maintenance, updating, controlled search) but differ in the extent to which these processes operate in a particular task. These differences largely depend on the extent to which phonological processes are maximized and variability from long list lengths is present. Potential methodological, psychometric, and assessment implications are discussed and a theoretical account of the data is proposed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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