The Magical Mystery Four: How is Working Memory Capacity Limited, and Why?

Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2010 Feb 1;19(1):51-57. doi: 10.1177/0963721409359277.


Working memory storage capacity is important because cognitive tasks can be completed only with sufficient ability to hold information as it is processed. The ability to repeat information depends on task demands but can be distinguished from a more constant, underlying mechanism: a central memory store limited to 3 to 5 meaningful items in young adults. I will discuss why this central limit is important, how it can be observed, how it differs among individuals, and why it may occur.