The generality of working memory capacity: a latent-variable approach to verbal and visuospatial memory span and reasoning

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2004 Jun;133(2):189-217. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.133.2.189.


A latent-variable study examined whether verbal and visuospatial working memory (WM) capacity measures reflect a primarily domain-general construct by testing 236 participants in 3 span tests each of verbal WM. visuospatial WM, verbal short-term memory (STM), and visuospatial STM. as well as in tests of verbal and spatial reasoning and general fluid intelligence (Gf). Confirmatory' factor analyses and structural equation models indicated that the WM tasks largely reflected a domain-general factor, whereas STM tasks, based on the same stimuli as the WM tasks, were much more domain specific. The WM construct was a strong predictor of Gf and a weaker predictor of domain-specific reasoning, and the reverse was true for the STM construct. The findings support a domain-general view of WM capacity, in which executive-attention processes drive the broad predictive utility of WM span measures, and domain-specific storage and rehearsal processes relate more strongly to domain-specific aspects of complex cognition.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Space Perception*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Vocabulary*