Actual versus “virtual” short-term memory phenomena

Nelson Cowan

in Attention and Memory

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780195119107
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870097 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Psychology Series

 Actual versus “virtual” short-term memory phenomena

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In computer jargon, virtual memory is the use of a specially-designated portion of long-term memory to hold information that needs to be retrieved quickly. This chapter considers that the same type of function may occur in the human mind; long-term memory representations can be marked as relevant to the current context and thereby retrieved quickly, from a “virtual short-term store” that expands the capabilities of short-term memory. Evidence for this possibility is amassed from the short-term recall literature. The notion of virtual short-term memory was conceived contemporaneously with Ericsson and Kintsch's “long-term working memory”, which consequently was not cited. A different empirical base was used, so this chapter complements Ericsson and Kintsch. The chapter provides evidence against a “monistic view” in which the only type of working memory is long-term working memory; it provides evidence that true short-term memory also exists.

Keywords: current context; Ericsson and Kintsch; long-term working memory; monistic view; recency effects; virtual memory; virtual short-term store

Chapter.  10031 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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