Carnegie Mellon University
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Working Memory: Activation Limitations on Retrieval*

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journal contribution
posted on 1996-01-01, 00:00 authored by Lynne RederLynne Reder, John R Anderson, Christian Lebiere
Two experiments which require subjects to hold a digit span while solving an equation and then recall the digit span are performed. The size of the memory span and the complexity of the equation are manipulated as well as whether the subject is required to substitute items from the digit span for constants in the equation. As either task (digit span recall or equation solving) gets more complex there are performance decrements (accuracy or latency) not only in that task but also in the other task. It is also shown that the majority of the errors are misretrievals. These results are consistent with the proposal that working memory load has its impact on retrieval from memory. These results are fit by the ACT-R theory (Anderson, 1993) which assumes that there is a limit on source activation and that this activation has to be divided between the two tasks. As either task increases in complexity there is less activation for retrieval of information from declarative memory. Subjects’ misretrievals of associatively related information could be predicted by assuming a partial matching process in ACT-R.




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