D. L. Medin

Document Type


Publication Date

January 1996




Academic Press

Place of Publication

New York


Working memory may be composed of a number of subsystems for storing different kinds of information. This is the issue that motivates the present review. There are many different conceptions of working memory, but they all include a common set of characteristics--a memory system that: (a) stores information briefly, (b) stores a limited amount of information, (c) is rapidly accessible, (d) is subject to frequent updating, (e) and is used in the service of higher cognitive processes. These characteristics are the hallmarks of working memory throughout its entire history of discussion in psychology, during most of which working memory has been conceptualized as a unitary construct. However, there is now reason to believe that working memory is composed of a number of subsystems that differ from one another in the kind of information they process, but that are related to one another by their common characteristics. The evidence that underlies this view is mainly concerned with the distinction between verbal and spatial working-memory systems, and it is concentrated on the storage rather than the executive aspects of working memory. This chapter reviews this evidence in detail and from it draws a picture of working memory that includes at least two storage subcomponents.