Putting things into perspective: Individual differences in working-memory Span and the integration of information

Carrie R. Brumback, Kathy A. Low, Gabriele Gratton, Monica Fabiani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


An important function of working memory is the integration of incoming information into an appropriate model of the contextual situation. We hypothesized that individual variability in working-memory function (estimated using Engle's operation-span measure) may lead to differential reactivity to a changing context. We recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and reaction-time measures to stimuli embedded in long stimulus series (two auditory discrimination tasks), and examined the participants' responses in relation to how the current stimuli fit with the context generated by the previous stimuli. In both tasks, participants with low working-memory span scores showed larger brain responses as a function of variations in the local stimulus sequence than participants with high span scores. These data suggest that the low working-memory span group is more affected by the local stimulus sequence than the high span group, possibly because they are more easily swayed by ongoing changes and are therefore less capable of maintaining their attention on the overall sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2005



  • Controlled attention
  • Event-related brain potentials (ERPs)
  • Individual differences
  • OSPAN task
  • Stimulus sequence
  • Working-memory capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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