Working memory

Working memory

Working memory allows us to process gained information and to organize them. It gives us the ability to keep certain information in for a short period of time. Then we either process this information and send them to the long-term memory or we lose them. It is a conscious process, because we steer our attention to the important information. With working memory, we process language, visual- spatial and sound stimulus.

We can divide it to two parts. With one part we process language, acoustic information, and number sequence (phonological loop). The other system can process visual- spatial information (visual-spatial sketchbook).

Language information are processed through the phonological loop. If we hear the word (inner ear), the word is immediately in the loop, but if we see the written word (inner eye), we articulate it with the inner ear, before it enters the phonological loop. Visual information give us the information about the appearance of the things (colours, shapes), spatial give us the information where they are in correlation to the other things (location).

In everyday life we use the working memory while we read, solve problems, while we plan, when we orient. If we manage to do two things at a time (example: if we calculate) we keep in mind only the part of the information that will help us solve the problem (example: if we divided the number 25 with 5, we have to know the multiplication table of the number 5).

The same goes for crossing the road, we have to be aware what is happening on the both sides of the road, plus that we have to check the traffic lights. Working memory helps us multitask; we can speak to someone over the phone and search the web at the same time.

The part of the working memory that is placed before the long-time memory plays the role of the central executor. The task is to gather the information from the sensory system, steering the attention and supervise both subsystems (phonological loop and visual-spatial sketchbook). The information is then processed into meaningful information or they relate to previous knowledge, so they make sense and are kept in the memory. Attention span and executive function play the important role with our focus, so we can gather important information, prioritize.

The more we are able to keep parts of information in our memory, the easier we learn new skills and solve new problems.

Working memory plays important part when we want to remember something important- information recalling. We search our long-time memory for this information, connect it in a new way with data that we have now and then we use it.

The information can be recognized. The example of how this process works is speaking foreign language. We can hear someone speak the language and we can understand a lot, but when we have to say something, we cannot recall the words. The same thing goes for the exercise; if we have to point out some words that were shown to us. It is much easier if we see 10-15 words first and then we can point them out, rather to repeat them out loud. Free recall happens when we have to remember words in a foreign language, different facts, etc., without any support (visual, auditory.)

Working memory fades with older age.