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Unformatted text preview: on to be represented as knowledge, specifically
The characteristics of the working memory pose some interesting limitations on
our abilities to think and problem-solve. First, the duration of time that information can
remain in working memory is variable. As long as the information is being consciously
attended to, it will remain active in working memory. However, if the information is not
consciously attended to, it will disappear rather quickly. For example, suppose you are
trying to remember a phone number that you have just looked up. As you walk across the
room to the phone, you are able to keep it active in working memory by saying it over
and over. However, half way to the phone, a friend engages you in conversation. You
concentrate on what he is asking, and soon find the number is no longer available to you.
Your attempt to listen to your friend caused you to divert attention from the numbers, and
they are forgotten.
In addition to the duration issue, working memory is also limited in terms of its
capacity for information and thought processes. There are limits to the amount of
information that can be contained in working memory at one time, and there are
limitations on the number of complicated mental processes which can be consciously Manuscript 9/28/03 24 attended to at one time. The working memory load of a task refers to the amount of
information that must be simultaneously maintained and processed to accomplish a task.
Working memory can be overloaded by too much information at one time, and/or by the
demands created by trying to perform complicated mental processes. This often result in
an error due to forgetting some critical piece of information or skipping an important step
in the process.
Historically, working memory capacity for information has been demonstrated by
giving people lists of numbers, or letters or pictures to recall in sequence (e. g. 6, 8, 7, 9,
1, 4, 5). With each trial, the length of the list increases. At some point the person being
tested can no longer remember the entire list. The typical finding is that the adult capacity
of working memory is about 7 +/- 2 chunks of information (Miller, 1956). As discussed
previously chunk can be thought of as a packet or piece of information store as
The limits of processing capacity becomes an issue as the complexity of the
learning task increases. For instance increasing the amount of information in a visual
presentation seems to overload working memory and adversely affect recall (Kemps,
2001) Complexity is also increased when learners are required to perform multiple
complicated processes simultaneously. Our conscious attention to one or more of these
processes adversely affects how well we can attend to the other processes. For example,
beginning readers often have to expend considerable cognitive effort to decode the text
on a page (i.e. translate the letters on the page into sounds or words). This emphasis on
the decoding processes often has an impact on their ability to comprehend or get meaning
from text. Avai...
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- Spring '08