ABSTRACT

The idea of one's memory "filling up" is a humorous misconception of how memory in general is thought to work; it actually has no capacity limit. However, the idea of a "full brain" makes more sense with reference to working memory, which is the limited amount of information a person can hold temporarily in an especially accessible form for use in the completion of almost any challenging cognitive task.

This groundbreaking book explains the evidence supporting Cowan's theoretical proposal about working memory capacity, and compares it to competing perspectives. Cognitive psychologists profoundly disagree on how working memory is limited: whether by the number of units that can be retained (and, if so, what kind of units and how many), the types of interfering material, the time that has elapsed, some combination of these mechanisms, or none of them. The book assesses these hypotheses and examines explanations of why capacity limits occur, including vivid biological, cognitive, and evolutionary accounts. The book concludes with a discussion of the practical importance of capacity limits in daily life.

This 10th anniversary Classic Edition will continue to be accessible to a wide range of readers and serve as an invaluable reference for all memory researchers.

chapter 1|32 pages

The Problem of Capacity Limits

chapter 2|30 pages

The Present Theoretical Approach

chapter 4|29 pages

Capacity Limits for Unstructured Materials

chapter 5|22 pages

Other Views of Capacity Limits

chapter 6|36 pages

Why the Capacity Limit?