Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Douglas L. Nelson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Working memory, Implicit memory, Cued-recall, Retention interval, Interference, Attention, Context

Abstract

Although much research has been done on how well working memory predicts processing of consciously activated information, research on the possible influences of working memory on automatically activated information is scarce (Barrett, Tugade, & Engle, 2004). Working memory capacity (WMC) may be related to how much information is activated automatically by either aiding ease of access to relevant information or by its role in inhibiting irrelevant thoughts and information (i.e., noise). The purpose of the present study was to examine the contribution of individual differences in WMC on implicit and explicit processes in cued recall. Participants studied target words and recall was cued by associatively related words. Target connectivity was varied in Experiment 1 and target set size was varied in Experiment 2. The cued recall memory test was conducted after various retention intervals (0, 10 and 20 mins).

In addition, memory span of all participants was measured with both operation and counting span tasks. Finally, all participants studied a second list of words under divided attention instructions. The present experiments examined 1) the influence of retention interval on cued recall performance, 2) the influence of individual differences in WMC on cued recall after various retention intervals and 3) the role of WMC and divided attention on implicitly activated knowledge (i.e., connectivity and set size effects). The findings revealed that working memory is related to intentional (explicit) types of processes, but not related to implicit processes outside of a person's awareness. WMC also interacted with retention interval. This finding is compatible with an attentional interpretation of WMC that assumes the high span advantage is apparent only when there is interference. Surprisingly, low span participants tended to outperform high span individuals on an immediate test. These findings are explained by differences in maintenance of information and rehearsal, and retrieval strategies.

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