How to measure working memory capacity in the change detection paradigm

Jeffrey N. Rouder*, Richard D. Morey, Candice C. Morey, Nelson Cowan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

173 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Although the measurement of working memory capacity is crucial to understanding working memory and its interaction with other cognitive faculties, there are inconsistencies in the literature on how to measure capacity. We address the measurement in the change detection paradigm, popularized by Luck and Vogel (Nature, 390, 279-281, 1997). Two measures for this task-from Pashler (Perception & Psychophysics, 44, 369-378, 1988) and Cowan (The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 87-114, 2001), respectively-have been used interchangeably, even though they may yield qualitatively different conclusions. We show that the choice between these two measures is not arbitrary. Although they are motivated by the same underlying discrete-slots working memory model, each is applicable only to a specific task; the two are never interchangeable. In the course of deriving these measures, we discuss subtle but consequential flaws in the underlying discrete-slots model. These flaws motivate revision in the modal model and capacity measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-330
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2011

Keywords

  • Working memory
  • Capacity
  • Capacity measures
  • SHORT-TERM-MEMORY
  • VISUAL MEMORY
  • STORAGE CAPACITY
  • REPRESENTATIONS
  • INFORMATION
  • ATTENTION
  • PREDICTS
  • BINDING
  • NUMBER

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