Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Working Memory and Information Processing

  • Gregory SpillersEmail author
  • Gene Brewer
  • Nash Unsworth
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_787



Working memory is an adaptive system for maintaining task-relevant information in an active and accessible state for the purpose of completing complex cognitive and behavioral tasks – hence the term working memory. Despite continued debate over the specific nature of working memory, there are several basic assumptions that all researchers ascribe to its concept: (1) that it is limited in capacity, (2) it is structurally and/or functionally distinct from long-term memory, and (3) specific control processes (such as rehearsal and retrieval) act on the information held within working memory to keep it active for ongoing use.

Theoretical Background

The concept of working memory was borne out of growing dissatisfaction with the earlier concept of short-term memory or short-term store, that is, a system used for the sole purpose of storing some amount of information for a limited time. Researchers felt...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1968). Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In K. W. Spence (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 2, pp. 89–195). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 47–89). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  3. Baddeley, A. (2000). The episodic buffer: A new component of working memory? Trends in Cognitive Science, 4(11), 417–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chein, J. M., & Morrison, A. B. (2010). Expanding the mind’s workspace: Training and transfer effects with a complex working memory span task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2, 193–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cowan, N. (1999). An embedded-processes model of working memory. In A. Miyake & P. Shah (Eds.), Models of working memory: Mechanisms of active maintenance and executive control (pp. 62–101). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Miller, G. A., Galanter, E., & Pribram, K. H. (1960). Plans and the Structure of Behaviour. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Unsworth, N., & Engle, R. W. (2007). The nature of individual differences in working memory capacity: Active maintenance in primary memory and controlled search from secondary memory. Psychological Review, 114, 104–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Unsworth, N., & Spillers, G. J. (2010). Working memory capacity: Attention control, secondary memory, or both? A direct test of the dual-component model. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 392–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA