Working Memory Model

Now that you have become familiar with the Multi-Store Model of memory, perhaps you think it is too simplistic of an explanation for the complex notion of our memories? Baddeley and Hitch (1974) certainly thought so and went on to develop their Working Memory Model (WMM). This model sought to improve upon the Multi-Store Model (MSM) proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968), which we previously discussed.

Working Memory Model Working Memory Model

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    What are the components of the Working Memory Model?

    In contrast to the MSM, Baddeley and Hitch think that short-term memory (STM) must be more sophisticated than a single unitary store that exists just to transfer information to long-term memory (LTM). Short-term memory (STM) must be an active processor, able to contain many types of information at the same time while being worked on. Long-term memory (LTM) is not emphasised in the WMM. However, it is considered a more passive store that retains previously learned material for use by the STM when required.

    The key components of the Working Memory Model are 1) the central executive, 2) the phonological loop, 3) the visuospatial sketchpad and 4) the episodic buffer. The diagram below shows the full structure of the WMM:

    Working Memory Model Diagram StudySmarter

    Working Memory Model Diagram, StudySmarter Originals

    Central Executive

    The Central Executive (CE) is the "Head" or "Boss" of the WMM, which has the supervisory function of filtering and monitoring the incoming information from all senses. The CE is also responsible for problem-solving, decision-making, and reasoning. Furthermore, the CE directs attention and information to the three other slave systems/subsystems (i.e. phonological loop, visuospatial sketchpad, and episodic buffer).

    The CE is not a memory store, meaning that CE is unable to store information. The CE has limited processing capacity and can only deal with one piece of information at a time.

    Phonological Loop

    Phonological Loop (PL) is a slave system/subsystem in WMM that is responsible for processing and coding auditory (sound) information. PL preserves the order in which information arrives. Limited capacity is available in PL, which holds information for only around two seconds. Baddeley (1986) further subdivided the PL into the Phonological store (Inner ear), which holds recent auditory information and the articulatory process (Inner voice) which holds information via sub-vocal repetition and allows maintenance rehearsal and keeps any auditory information in working memory.

    When you hear a sentence, the acoustic information is stored in the phonological store in the correct order, allowing you to comprehend the meaning of the sentence. This information is repeated during your articulatory process (maintenance rehearsal) so you can formulate an answer. Suppose anything else draws your attention (for example, a loud noise or someone interrupting the conversation). In that case, your articulatory process is overwritten with new information, and you are likely to forget what you were going to say.

    Visuospatial Sketchpad

    Visuospatial Sketchpad (VSS) is another slave system/subsystem in WMM that is responsible for processing and coding visual and spatial information. VSS has a limited capacity that only holds three or four objects. Logie (1995) further subdivided the VSS into the Visuo-cache (store), which is a passive store of forms and colours and the inner scribe (spatial relation), which is an active store holding the relationships between objects and 3D space. Also, the inner scribe records the arrangement of objects in the visual field and rehearses and transfers information in the visual cache to the central executive (CE)

    If you were in a car accident and were asked to describe what happened to you immediately afterward, you would visualise it. Even if you couldn't envision every tree, bush, and car in your visual field at the time, you'd be able to recall the relative position of the two cars crashing and have some information about the surroundings in your memory.

    Episodic Buffer (EB)

    Criticisms were raised at the model for failing to address how information is efficiently integrated from visual, auditory, and LTM stores if the central executive (CE) lacked storage capacity. In response, Baddeley included an episodic buffer (EB) in 2000. Baddeley introduced the idea of EB as a universal and temporary store for information. The EB provides an additional storage mechanism for the CE, although its capacity is restricted to four 'chunks'.

    The episodic buffer is linked to all the slave systems and long-term memory. Visual, spatial, and auditory information from different stores can be processed and incorporated into the episodic buffer while keeping a sense of chronological sequencing. Additionally, the episodic buffer can retrieve data from LTM and incorporate it into STM when working memory requires it.


    The working memory model (WMM) - Key takeaways

    • The working memory model (Baddeley and Hitch, 1974) replaced the idea of a unitary STM.
    • The Central Executive (CE) directs attention, monitors incoming information and allocates tasks to slave systems.
    • The phonological loop (PL) is a slave system process with auditory information and preserves the chronological order of information.
    • Visuospatial Sketchpad (VSS) is a slave system process with visual and spatial information.
    • Episodic Buffer (EB) is a temporary storage of information to integrate visual, spatial and auditory information in other stores.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Working Memory Model

    What is the working memory model?

    Working Memory model is a memory model in which short-term memory (STM) must be more sophisticated than a single unitary store that exists just to transfer information to long term memory (LTM), like in the Multi-Store Model (MSM. Short term memory (STM) must be an active processor, able to contain many types of information at the same time while being worked on. Long term memory (LTM) is not emphasised in the WMM. However, it is considered a more passive store that retains previously learnt material for use by the STM when required.

    What are the components of the working memory model?

    The key components of the Working Memory Model are:

    1. The central executive.
    2. The phonological loop.
    3. The visuospatial sketchpad.
    4. The episodic buffer.

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