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Working Memory Capacity and Mental Rotation: Evidence for a Domain-General View

  • Jose L. Pardo-Vazquez (a1) and Jose Fernandez-Rey (a1)

Abstract

Despite the existence of numerous studies that examined the relationship between working memory capacity and performance in complex cognitive tasks, it remains unclear whether this capacity is domain specific or domain general. In addition, the available empirical evidence is somewhat contradictory. In this work we have studied the role of verbal working memory capacity in a non-verbal task – mental image rotation. If this capacity were domain specific it would be expected that high and low verbal span participants would obtain similar results in the mental rotation task. We have found that this is not the case as the high span participants performed better in terms of both speed and accuracy. Moreover, these differences depended on the processing component of the mental rotation task: the higher the processing requirements the higher the differences as a function of the working memory capacity. Therefore, the evidence presented here supports the domain general hypothesis.

A pesar de la existencia de numerosos estudios que examinaron la relación entre la capacidad de memoria de trabajo y el rendimiento en tareas cognitivas complejas, no está claro si esta capacidad es específica de dominio o de dominio general. Además, la evidencia empírica disponible es algo contradictoria. En este trabajo se estudió el papel de la capacidad de la memoria de trabajo verbal en una tarea no verbal -rotación mental de imágenes-. Si esta capacidad fuese específica de dominio se esperaría que los participantes con amplitud verbal alta y baja obtuviesen resultados similares en la tarea de rotación mental. Se encontró que esto no ocurría, ya que los participantes con amplitud alta obtenían mejores res ultados en cuanto a velocidad y precisión. Por otra parte, estas diferencias dependían del componente de procesamiento de la tarea de rotación mental: cuanto mayores eran las demandas de procesamiento, mayores eran también las diferencias en función de la capacidad de memoria de trabajo. Por tanto, la evidencia que aquí se presenta apoya la hipótesis de generalidad de dominio de dicha capacidad.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jose Fernandez-Rey. Grupo de Procesos Cognitivos y Conducta, Dpto. de Psicología Social, Básica y Metodología. Facultad de Psicología, Campus VIDA. 15782 Santiago de Compostela - A Coruña (Spain). Phone: +34-881813703. E-mail: jose.fernandez.rey@usc.es

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