Working memory, short-term memory, and general fluid intelligence: a latent-variable approach

J Exp Psychol Gen. 1999 Sep;128(3):309-331. doi: 10.1037//0096-3445.128.3.309.


A study was conducted in which 133 participants performed 11 memory tasks (some thought to reflect working memory and some thought to reflect short-term memory), 2 tests of general fluid intelligence, and the Verbal and Quantitative Scholastic Aptitude Tests. Structural equation modeling suggested that short-term and working memories reflect separate but highly related constructs and that many of the tasks used in the literature as working memory tasks reflect a common construct. Working memory shows a strong connection to fluid intelligence, but short-term memory does not. A theory of working memory capacity and general fluid intelligence is proposed: The authors argue that working memory capacity and fluid intelligence reflect the ability to keep a representation active, particularly in the face of interference and distraction. The authors also discuss the relationship of this capability to controlled attention, and the functions of the prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Intelligence*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Psychomotor Performance