Monday, February 14, 2011

Try Thinking and Learning Without Working Memory

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.Baddeley's Working Memory Model 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

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