How to measure working memory

Working memory is nearly the same thing as general intelligence. It is highly heritable, it determines how much attention you pay to tasks, and without it logical reasoning is impossible.

For the spring experiment I will be stressing participants’ working memory (like I did in The wary student), but this time I will be measuring the amount of working memory the high-workload condition consumes, too.

Therefore, I’m incredibly grateful Randall Engle’s lab at University of Georgia, as well as open-access articles such as “How does running memory span work? by Bunting, Cowan, and Saults.


Measures of working memory capacity that work

Working memory capacity and attentional control: An electrophysiological analysis

(Working memory can also be improved through pharmaceuticals, by the way.)

3 thoughts on “How to measure working memory”

  1. So, is your suggestion that the rise we've seen in general intelligence over time is due in part to our increased consumption of caffeinated beverages? 😉 Just kidding. But I've love to be the Director of Marketing at Coke for that one!

  2. “So, is your suggestion that the rise we've seen in general intelligence over time is due in part to our increased consumption of caffeinated beverages? 😉 Just kidding. But I've love to be the Director of Marketing at Coke for that one!”

    Caffeine operations like ritalin (both are stimulants) — at least among learners with ADD/ADDHD, caffeine and Ritalin increase attention, therefore working memory and measured general intelligence.

    I would not be surprised if a large fraction of the increase in general intelligence (whether the Flynn effect or even the difference between third-world and first-world intelligences) are the result of what is ingested, and it makes sense some of this comes from non-dietary consumption, as well.

    We've been epigenetically doping for a long time.

  3. Hmm. . . two more comments come to mind:
    1) If caffeine is an intelligence booster, does that mean that people who get caffeine headaches are potentially disabled?
    2) How many people in MENSA would score as high on these new tests?

  4. Michael,

    1) I think, scientifically, the difference between “disabled by” and “affected by” is constructed — so if you want to use that term… sure!

    2) My guess is yes — MENSA stopped accepting the SAT and ACT when the difference between high and very high scores on those tests stopped correlation with the difference between high and very high scores on other IQ tests (Raven's progressive matrice's, etc.) I don't believe the running span test has that problem, so I'd assume that MENSA would have no problem with a validated running span test.

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