Working Memory

By Matthew Quek

Ask a layperson, “What is memory?” and more often than not, they will describe it as something along the lines of how much “stuff” a person is able to remember. Experts however, have broken down the concept of memory to long-term and short-term memory. While long-term memory has been described as the ability to recall information acquired or events that happened quite some time back, short-term memory has been shown to be actively involved in the ability to learn.

A type of short-term memory, known as ‘working memory’, has been described as the immediate ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s mind for the purpose of everyday life. Working memory is required in numerous tasks, such as remembering instructions, in reading comprehension, carrying on conversations, in calculations and solving math problems, etc. In the earlier century, it was presumed that working memory capacity was fixed, recent research has consistently supported the idea that working memory can indeed be trained and improve. Thus, a poor working memory is NOT something that anyone should have to accept as truth about him or herself.

Impairments in working memory have been observed in individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), patients suffering from brain injury, and several other conditions that result in difficulties with concentrating and learning. It is therefore important to educate such individuals on the truth about working memory and how it can be improved with appropriate intervention. Such information sharing is beneficial in combating any feelings of self-doubt and helplessness that may develop in individuals with working memory impairments.

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