Working memory in psychology: what is it and how to improve it?

According to the duration of information storage in the brain structures of an individual, short-term (ST), long-term (LT) and working memory (OP) are distinguished. A person who has received the task of remembering new information, in order to successfully complete the task, refers not only to previously acquired knowledge (KP), but also to specific instructions and instructions that help to realize the intended goal (OP).

What it is?

In the middle of the twentieth century. scientists have identified ongoing operational transformations in short-term memory during the implementation of cognitive processes by an individual. During the performance of complex mathematical calculations, when solving problems, intermediate results are kept in the head as long as the person operates with them. Subsequently, some of the actions are forgotten. Information superfluous for further work is forced out of memory. The period of their storage is determined by the task set by the individual. Data can be saved from a few seconds to several minutes. Removing unnecessary facts makes room for the assimilation of new information.

Researchers have defined this process. Working memory is the retention in the brain structures of a person of the initial data necessary to perform a separate act of action. The main characteristic of EP is the memorization and reproduction of information necessary for the implementation of a specific operation in the current activity.

Thus, working memory in psychology is an intermediate link between short-term and long-term memorization. It works when an individual performs actual operations for a short period of time in order to maintain a trace of the image necessary to complete the current task.

Basic properties

The functioning of the OP is associated with strong neuropsychic stress due to the interaction of a number of opposing centers of excitation. OP is able to hold no more than two variable factors at the moment of operating with objects whose state is changing.

A person perfectly understands complex long phrases thanks to a good OP. Comprehension of the text occurs due to the short-term memorization of some of its elements. A mathematical problem lends itself to solution, because for some time the necessary numbers are retained in memory.

Working memory is characterized by selectivity, superficiality and short duration. For example, when preparing a presentation, a student remembers his report to the smallest detail, up to the choice of intonation at the time of speaking. After the presentation, the essence of the information presented remains in the long-term memory storage, and small details and some subtleties of reproducing the presentation itself are erased.

How to develop?

Any modern person knows that pumping the RAM of a computer means testing its bandwidth and latency, as well as adding additional volume. Is it possible for a person to train this function of the brain in order to increase the capacity of this type of memory? It is possible to improve the productivity of the EP through the maximum load, the absence of which accelerates the process of weakening and aging of the mental function.

The mechanical memorization of educational material does not allow knowledge to break through from the operational storage to the long-term archive. Mechanical memorization of poetry and prose text does not contribute to the development of OP. Memorizing rhyming lines and prose in a meaningful way, replenishing vocabulary, learning foreign languages, solving problems, solving crossword puzzles and rebuses brings benefits.

There are prospects for strengthening the OP provided that daily training exercises are performed. Examples of tasks assigned to a person:

  • keeping a daily diary with fixing interesting information received during the day;
  • speaking aloud any perceived new information;
  • retelling to relatives, friends, acquaintances of the plots of films watched, the content of books read;
  • a written description of the architectural features of the building seen;
  • compiling an identikit of any passerby, randomly met person;
  • showing interest in learning the functions of new smartphones and other electronic equipment;
  • nightly recovery in memory of experienced emotions, events of the past day with a mental recreation of the smallest details in reverse order.

Memory can only be trained by actions. Solving simple problems, mental calculations without the use of a calculator is an excellent training for working memory.

Division into groups

All information received must be structured. The division into blocks effectively affects the final result. Reading by syllables, groups of words contributes to the organization of the integrity of the memorized text.

To quickly memorize a number consisting of 9 characters, it is advised to break it into parts of 3 digits. Let’s say you need to remember the document number 314365404. The first group of digital characters can be associated with the number «pi». The second third of the number is remembered by the number of days in a year. The last digital group is associated with the occurrence of an error when searching for the necessary information on the Internet, when the message “Error 404 Not Found” is displayed on a blank screen.

When combining the learned individual digital groups, the reproduction of the entire number is easy and fast.


Information of any complexity is well remembered through the use of mnemonics aimed at the figurative perception of the material. The technique involves the creation of associative links, increased concentration of attention. Incoming information is mentally encoded by generating images. In the course is the attraction of smells, taste sensations, sounds, music, pictures and a wide variety of emotions.

To memorize important information, you do not need to immediately fix it in a notebook. First you need to create an image in your imagination, a vivid association. The more absurd the associative series are, the easier it is to remember the necessary material. Reproducing a list of necessary purchases in memory is easy using the method of binding to objects encountered along the way from the apartment to the supermarket. For example, a person must buy tomatoes, sugar, canned corn, slippers, toothpaste, a children’s jacket, a fresh issue of their favorite magazine.

When memorizing, it is necessary to deliberately exaggerate images, revive objects, modify them, and focus on a specific detail of the object. Not a single purchase will be missed if a person imagines his way to the place of purchase of goods. When leaving the apartment, he in his imagination stumbles upon a huge mountain of fresh bright red tomatoes. Passing by mailboxes, a potential buyer sees snow-white granulated sugar quickly pouring out of their slots.

The exit to the street is blocked by a huge can of corn, the size of which can exceed human height. Slippers of bright colors stick out from the urn, standing near the bench at the entrance. Tubes of toothpaste are casually scattered on the bench. A lilac bush is covered with a children’s jacket, sparkling due to neon lighting. The trail is littered with colorful magazines.

Involving musical pieces in the memorization process helps to associate specific information with certain sounds. Subsequently, the sound sequences allow you to extract the necessary information from the brain structures without any extra effort.

The advantage of using music to memorize facts is the ability to relax the psyche and respite in the use of active attention. At the same time, stress is relieved.

Proper nutrition, sufficient replenishment of the body with vitamins, a healthy lifestyle, good sleep, daily walks, and physical exercises help to improve the functioning of RAM. It is advisable to avoid negative emotions and stressful situations. Smokers and drinkers have a significant decrease in the memorization of any information, so it makes sense to get rid of bad habits.

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