Limits of Working Memory – Book Notes

The Overflowing Brain—Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory by Torkel Klingberg

Long-term memory is searched for item, a small set is retrieved which takes up a fraction of working memory
Long-term memory is searched for item, a small set is retrieved which takes up a fraction of working memory
  • Working Memory is limited—7 items plus or minus 2
  • Attention has two main types: controlled attention and stimulus driven;
    • Another aspect of attention is arousal.  When attention arousal is low, less ability on either attention type
  • Multitasking—is constrained by working memory capacity, in addition to characteristics of the multiple tasks
    • Most studies focus on two tasks at a time.
  • In multitasking are we using parallelism or interrupts?
  • Two locations in the brain are active when working memory is called in the prefrontal lobe, where executive decisions are made
  • Another location is triggered by controlled attention, in the parietal
  • Working memory capacity correlates highly with reading comprehension.
    • The more info you can keep under focus, the more conclusions you can extract
  • Why did working memory evolve?  40 thousand years ago
    • Social group size, language
    • Reading—not evolution-driven skill, only capability that is used that way now
  • Language is in Broca’s area.  Is there a analogous focus for reading?
  • Difference bet. Darwin and Wallace evolutionary explanations?  Wallace focused solely on adaptation
  • Evolutionary psychology (Pinker) relies almost exclusively on adaptation, not sexual selection.
  • Dopamine boost increases working memory about 10%
    • That’s one-half the standard deviation of working memory distribution among people
  • ADHD might be related to deficiencies in working memory
  • Working memory can be extended by training.  Requires mental exercise that strains your ability, just as in muscle strengthening
  • Flynn Effect. IQ growing about 3 points/decade.  Could be due to increased info flow the modern culture demands of us, i.e. training our working memories to grow.

Diagram of working memory and long-term memory by Blacktc – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Mental Aspects Thought Modes

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