Individual differences in visuospatial working memory: benefits from environmental support for rehearsal

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Previous research has suggested that participants with low working memory spans are less likely than those with high spans to engage in rehearsal and other effective strategies during memory tasks. However, most of this research has been conducted in the verbal domain, and less is known about strategy differences in visuospatial working memory. Therefore, the present experiments investigated potential individual differences in the benefit participants receive from environmental support for visuospatial rehearsal. In Experiment 1, memory spans were significantly larger when support was present (i.e. when the array of possible locations remained on the screen) during long inter-item intervals, but importantly, the observed benefit was larger for high-span participants than low-span participants, suggesting that high spans were more likely to use support to facilitate their rehearsal. Other research has suggested that low spans may benefit more than high spans from rehearsal instructions, and so in Experiment 2, participants also were provided with such instructions. However, the rehearsal instructions did not improve memory spans significantly in either group, suggesting that low spans are not only naturally less strategic than high spans, but they may be less capable of taking advantage of effective rehearsal strategies, even when environmental support is present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)863-871
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 17 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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