Ann Arbor Neuropsychology: Working Memory- Limitations

Working Memory- Limitations: 


  • Short-term memory is believed to hold 7 to 9 pieces of information, while working memory is thought to hold 3 to 5 elements of new information. Some researchers believe children have a smaller working memory capacity (perhaps only 1 to 3 elements).
  • Information in working memory is only there temporarily as it is either transferred or encoded into long-term memory or it decays and disappears.
  • If working memory is compromised for any reason, the number of elements held in mind could only be 1 to 2. Therefore, new learning can be significantly impacted when a person struggles with working memory.
  • Imagine a conveyor belt with 3 widgets moving down the line. If the conveyor belt represented working memory, when you added another widget, one of the original widgets would fall off the end of the conveyor belt and disappear if it had not been encoded into long-term memory.
  • Researchers believe you have 7 to 15 seconds before information in working memory begins to degrade, and 20 to 30 seconds before it is erased (falls off the end of the conveyor belt).

For more information about the capacity or limits of working memory, check out this video: Improving Working Memory Capacity.

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