Working memory capacity and dual mechanisms of cognitive control: An experimental-correlational approach

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2022 Oct;75(10):1793-1809. doi: 10.1177/17470218211066410. Epub 2022 Jan 5.


Working memory is thought to be strongly related to cognitive control. Recent studies have sought to understand this relationship under the prism of the dual mechanisms of control (DMC) framework, in which cognitive control is thought to operate in two distinct modes: proactive and reactive. Several authors have concluded that a high working memory capacity is associated with a tendency to engage the more effective mechanism of proactive control. However, the predicted pattern of proactive control use has never been observed; correlational evidence is made difficult to interpret by the overall superiority of participants with a high working memory capacity: they tend to perform better even when proactive control should be detrimental. In two experiments, we used an experimental-correlational approach to experimentally induce the use of reactive or proactive control in the AX-CPT. The relation between working memory capacity and performance was unaffected, incompatible with the hypothesis that the better performance of participants with a high working memory capacity in the task is due to their use of proactive control. It remains unclear how individual differences in working memory capacity relate to cognitive control under the DMC framework.

Keywords: Individual differences; cognitive control; dual mechanisms of control; proactive control; working memory capacity.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Neuropsychological Tests