The Involvement of Working Memory during Retrieval

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While individual differences in working memory (WM) capacity have been implicated in memory search during free recall, the evidence for this is primarily correlational. Conversely, while the role of attention via WM during free recall has been well-established in the dual-task literature, the potential role of storage-based aspects of WM in episodic retrieval have yet to be explored. As such, we enforced a storage-based WM load during the recall window of a free recall-based task to examine effects on a variety of episodic recall characteristics. Using Bayesian modelling techniques, we assessed potential differences in benchmark effects from the free recall literature (primacy, recency, lag-recency) and rate of memory search. While load affected overall recall accuracy, there was otherwise no reliable effect of a storage-based WM load on the benchmark effects of free recall. The impairment of recall accuracy under WM load without any commensurate effect on fundamental aspects of episodic retrieval offers unique challenges to claims that differences in episodic retrieval uniquely arise from effects on rate of memory search as observed in both the dual-task and WM literatures.

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