Imagine dialing a phone number by having to look up each digit one at a time in the phone book. Normally, you look up the number and remember all seven digits long enough to get it dialed. Even with one digit at a time, you would have to remember each digit long enough to get it dialed. What if your brain could not even do that! We call this kind of remembering, “working memory,” because that is what the brain works with. Working memory is critical to everyday living.
Conscious thought involves moving a
succession of items through what seems like a virtual scratch-pad.
Think of it like streaming audio/video, where “thought bites” move on
to the scratch pad where they are fed into a thought process and then
moved off the scratch pad to make room for the next thought bite. Working MemoryImage via Wikipedia
We think with what is in working or “scratch pad” memory. What we
know, stored in regular memory, is brought onto the scratch pad in
successive stages, each involving subjecting the knowledge to
analysis, integration into the current context, and creative
re-organization via our thinking processes (“thought engine”). The
animated version of this graphic shows item 1 moving on to the
scratch pad and then sent on to the “thought engine.” This is followed
by item 2, then 3, etc.
Conscious thinking thus requires the ability to hold information
“on line” long enough to use it in thinking. Conscious thought thus
seems to be a serially ordered process of moving thought bites on to
and off of the scratch pad.
Try Thinking and Learning Without Working Memory | SharpBrains