Distributing Working Memory Resources during Problem Solving

Melanie Cary, Richard A. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


This study examines how problem solvers distribute working memory demands over internal and external resources. Participants recorded notes while performing an arithmetic task. They recorded a majority of intermediate results and labeled many of those results (e.g., "C = 10"). When more effort was required to take notes, participants recorded fewer results. Participants with a consistent goal structure recorded fewer results and with practice labeled fewer recorded results than those with varied goal structures. When notes were displayed in a consistent spatial arrangement participants labeled fewer recorded results than when notes appeared in varied locations. These findings indicate that individuals use explicit and implicit strategies for indexing intermediate results. The data support the view that individuals flexibly distribute working memory over internal and external resources in response to situational cost-benefit considerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)836-848
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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