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Experiment Author: Conway, A.R.A., & Engle, R.W., Adapted from STEP and used with permission of Brian MacWhinney
This experiment takes a standard operation span test, where participants alternate between solving math problems and learning words then recall the words at the end and modifies it to adjust for the difficulty of the operations.
One of the hypotheses that has been put forth to explain individual differences in operation span tasks is that some people are more able to do the intevening tasks, so they have more resources left over to rehearse or remember the words. This experiment controls for that by making the math problems more difficult for those who are more able to do them.
The basic format is a standard operation span test, followed by a set of different kinds of math problems to determine math ability, then an operation span test adjusted for math difficulty.
This experiment uses three critical procedures and lists to present math equations and words. Participants solve a math equation and then a word is shown after each equation. After six words and equations, participants are asked to recall each word shown, typing on a keyboard.
Conway, A.R.A., & Engle, R.W. (1996). Individual differences in working memory capacity: More evidence for a general capacity theory. Memory 4, 577-590.
Experiment Abstract or Original Experiment Abstract
The causes of the positive relationship between comprehension and measures of working memory capacity remain unclear. This study tests three hypotheses for the relationship by equating the difficulty, for 48 individual subjects, of processing demands in complex working memory tasks. Even with difficulty of processing equated, the relationship between number of words recalled in the working memory measure and comprehension remained high and significant. The results favor a general capacity view. We suggest that high working memory span subjects have more limited-capacity attentional resources available to them than low span subjects and that individual differences in working memory capacity will have implications for any task that requires controlled effortful processing.
Works Cited by the Experiment
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