Memory & Cognition

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 389–396 | Cite as

Why is working memory capacity related to matrix reasoning tasks?

  • Tyler L. HarrisonEmail author
  • Zach Shipstead
  • Randall W. Engle


One of the reasons why working memory capacity is so widely researched is its substantial relationship with fluid intelligence. Although this relationship has been found in numerous studies, researchers have been unable to provide a conclusive answer as to why the two constructs are related. In a recent study, researchers examined which attributes of Raven’s Progressive Matrices were most strongly linked with working memory capacity (Wiley, Jarosz, Cushen, & Colflesh, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 256–263, 2011). In that study, Raven’s problems that required a novel combination of rules to solve were more strongly correlated with working memory capacity than were problems that did not. In the present study, we wanted to conceptually replicate the Wiley et al. results while controlling for a few potential confounds. Thus, we experimentally manipulated whether a problem required a novel combination of rules and found that repeated-rule-combination problems were more strongly related to working memory capacity than were novel-rule-combination problems. The relationship to other measures of fluid intelligence did not change based on whether the problem required a novel rule combination.


Working memory Intelligence 


Author note

This work was supported by a grant from the Office of Naval Research (No. N0014-09-1-0129). We thank Kenny Hicks, Thomas Redick, Dakota Lindsey, and Robyn Marshall for their assistance in data collection and for helping with various drafts of this article.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tyler L. Harrison
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zach Shipstead
    • 2
  • Randall W. Engle
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Arizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA

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