Two Dissociable Updating Processes in Working Memory

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70 Scopus citations


The authors show that the updating of working memory (WM) representations is carried out by the cooperative act of 2 dissociable reaction time (RT) components: a global updating process that provides stability by shielding WM contents against interference and a local process that provides flexibility. Participants kept track of 1-3 items (digits or Gibson figures). In each trial, the items either were similar to those in the previous trial or were different in any or all of the items. Experiments 1 and 2 established the existence of 2 independent RT components representing the 2 updating processes. Global updating cost was sensitive to total number of items in WM (set size), regardless of the number of items that actually were modified. Local updating cost was sensitive to the number of modified items, regardless of the set size. Experiment 3 showed that participants had to dismantle the representation formed by previous global updating in order to carry out new updating.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1339-1348
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2008


  • binding
  • set size
  • short-term memory
  • updating
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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