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Working Memory

Working memory is related to but not identical to the idea of short term memory. This idea describes how short term memory carries out some of its active control processes, especially rehearsal and recoding. Working memory can be subdivided into three parts with different active processing functions:

  • a "master" processing unit that controls two "slave" rehearsal systems.
  • the "phonological loop" slave unit, which operates on language material (phonological is about the same as speech sounds), This is the system that actively rehearses information in verbal form.
  • the "visuo-spatial sketch pad" slave unit, which operates on visuo-spatial images ("mental pictures"). This is the system that constructs and manipulates visual images.

The phonological loop and the visuo-spatial sketch pad systems refresh information in short term memory by rehearsal. Rehearsal keeps information available for other active processing. The two rehearsal systems are separate, because rehearsing verbal material has little effect on people's ability to keep visual images in short term memory, and vice versa. In contrast, two different sets of verbal material or two different sets of visual material will strongly interfere with each other.

For more information about working memory see exercise asgn3j.