Working Memory: What You Need to Know

This is the ability to keep certain pieces of information in one’s mind over a specific period of time — typically short periods. This is one of the executive functions of the brain. With the help of working memory, one can perform complex cognitive tasks such as reasoning, problem-solving, learning, and comprehension.

Working memory is not only for short-term use. The brain also uses it to organize fresh information for long-term storage. When people have difficulty with working memory, the brain might store information in a disorganized manner, or it might not store the information at all for the long term.

Working memory isn’t the same as short-term memory. For instance, students can hold some numbers in their short-term memory, but to be able to repeat these numbers backward, they’ve to manipulate that information – one of the key functions of working memory.

Working memory plays a more significant role in the academic performance of students. This is because lots of academic tasks include several steps with intermediate solutions. And students are required to remember these intermediate solutions to carry out the tasks. In mathematics, for example, a working memory task can involve remembering a formula and using it to solve a problem simultaneously.

There’re two kinds of working memory – visual-spatial working memory and auditory working memory.

Visual-spatial working memory – It utilizes a type of visual representation. Students utilize this skill to remember images, patterns, events, or sequences and to do math problems.

Auditory working memory – It taps into the phonological system. Whenever students are anticipated to follow a set of oral instructions, they use these working memory skills.

Everybody struggles with the limitations of working memory sometimes. However, for children with learning disorders, working memory often triggers a more substantial problem. They have a smaller working memory capacity. This is because when they adjust for the difficulties that appear with learning disorders, it consumes a significant volume of their cognitive workspace.

They’ve to consciously break down and carry out processes that other children do automatically. For example, a child with auditory processing issues needs to invest much more effort to listen, remember, and apply what is being communicated in class. Similarly, a child with a non-verbal learning disorder needs to work much harder to interpret and respond to social cues properly. Like learning disorders, children with ADHD also need to actively work to stay organized and focused – things that usually remain automated for other children.

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