Is the influence of working memory capacity on high-level cognition mediated by complexity or resource-dependent elementary processes?

Barrouillet, Pierre ; Lépine, Raphaëlle ; Camos, Valérie

In: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2008, vol. 15, no. 3, p. 528-534

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    Summary
    The aim of this study was to investigate the involvement of working memory (WM) in elementary activities and the nature of the mechanisms mediating the influence of WM capacity on high-level cognition. We demonstrate that even elementary activities such as reading digits, subitizing small arrays of dots, or solving simple additions like 3+1 are sensitive to individual differences in WM capacity. Moreover, we demonstrate that a complex task such as counting large arrays of dots involving these elementary activities as processing steps does not induce WM-related differences beyond what can be predicted from the concatenation of differences elicited by the task's elementary constituents. In line with the time-based resource-sharing model, these results suggest that the influence of WM capacity on high-level cognition is mediated by the impact of a basic general-purpose resource that affects each atomic step of cognition