Working memory span tasks: A methodological review and user’s guide

Abstract

Working memory (WM) span tasks—and in particular, counting span, operation span, and reading span tasks—are widely used measures of WM capacity. Despite their popularity, however, there has never been a comprehensive analysis of the merits of WM span tasks as measurement tools. Here, we review the genesis of these tasks and discuss how and why they came to be so influential. In so doing, we address the reliability and validity of the tasks, and we consider more technical aspects of the tasks, such as optimal administration and scoring procedures. Finally, we discuss statistical and methodological techniques that have commonly been used in conjunction with WM span tasks, such as latent variable analysis and extreme-groups designs.

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Correspondence to Andrew R. A. Conway.

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Conway, A.R.A., Kane, M.J., Bunting, M.F. et al. Working memory span tasks: A methodological review and user’s guide. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 12, 769–786 (2005). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196772

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Keywords

  • Work Memory
  • Work Memory Capacity
  • Stereotype Threat
  • Span Task
  • Work Memory Span