Detection of the number of changes in a display in working memory

Nelson Cowan, Kyle Hardman, J. Scott Saults, Christopher L. Blume, Katherine M. Clark, Mackenzie A. Sunday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here we examine a new task to assess working memory for visual arrays in which the participant must judge how many items changed from a studied array to a test array. As a clue to processing, on some trials in the first two experiments, participants carried out a metamemory judgment in which they were to decide how many items were in working memory. Trial-to-trial fluctuations in these working memory storage judgments correlated with performance fluctuations within an individual, indicating a need to include trial-to-trial variation within capacity models (through either capacity fluctuation or some other attention parameter). Mathematical modeling of the results achieved a good fit to a complex pattern of results, suggesting that working memory capacity limits can apply even to judgments that involve an entire array rather than just a single item that may have changed, thus providing the expected conscious access to at least some of the contents of working memory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Early online date10 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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