Cognitive tasks and abilities

Velichkovsky B. B.(2017). The concentric model of human working memory: A validation study using complex span and updating tasks. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 10 (3), 74-92.



Background. Working memory (WM) seems to be central to most forms of high-level cognition. This fact is fueling the growing interest in studying its structure and functional organization. The influential “concentric model” (Oberauer, 2002) suggests that WM contains a processing component and two storage components with different capacity limitations and sensitivity to interference. There is, to date, only limited support for the concentric model in the research literature, and it is limited to a number of specially designed tasks.

Objective. In the present paper, we attempted to validate the concentric model by testing its major predictions using complex span and updating tasks in a number of experimental paradigms.

Method. The model predictions were tested with the help of review of data obtained primarily in our own experiments in several research domains, including Sternberg’s additive factors method; factor structure of WM; serial position effects in WM; and WM performance in a sample with episodic long-term memory deficits.

Results. Predictions generated by the concentric model were shown to hold in all these domains. In addition, several new properties of WM were identified. In particular, we recently found that WM indeed contains a processing component which functions independent of storage components. In turn, the latter were found to form a storage hierarchy which balances fast access to selected items, with the storing of large amounts of potentially relevant information. Processing and storage in WM were found to be dependent on shared cognitive resources which are dynamically allocated between WM components according to actual task requirements. e implications of these findings for the theory of WM are discussed.

Conclusion. The concentric model was shown to be valid with respect to standard WM tasks. The concentric model others promising research perspectives for the study of higher- order cognition, including underlying neurobiological mechanisms. 

About the authors: Velichkovsky, Boris B.

Received: 03.19.2016

Accepted: 08.29.2016

Themes: Cognitive psychology


Pages: 74-92

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2017.0305

Keywords: working memory, concentric model, focus of attention (FA), storage, processing, interference, long-term memory (LTM), serial position e ects, complex span task, updating task

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