, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 673-679

Quantity, not quality: the relationship between fluid intelligence and working memory capacity


A key motivation for understanding capacity in working memory (WM) is its relationship with fluid intelligence. Recent evidence has suggested a two-factor model that distinguishes between the number of representations that can be maintained in WM and the resolution of those representations. To determine how these factors relate to fluid intelligence, we conducted an exploratory factor analysis on multiple number-limited and resolution-limited measures of WM ability. The results strongly supported the two-factor model, with fully orthogonal factors accounting for performance in the number-limited and resolution-limited conditions. Furthermore, the reliable relationship between WM capacity and fluid intelligence was exclusively supported by the number factor (r=.66), whereas the resolution factor made no reliable contribution (r=−.05). Thus, the relationship between WM capacity and standard measures of fluid intelligence is mediated by the number of representations that can be simultaneously maintained in WM, rather than by the precision of those representations.

Portions of this work were supported by Grant NIH-R01MH087214-01 to E.A. and E.V. We thank Nash Unsworth for valuable discussion of these findings.