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The role of working memory in following instructions

Yang, Tianxiao (2011) The role of working memory in following instructions. PhD thesis, University of York.

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How do we follow instructions? Research has suggested that working memory may play an important role. This thesis explored the involvement of working memory in following instructions using dual tasks known to selectively disrupt the operation of the visuospatial sketchpad, phonological loop, and central executive components of the Baddeley and Hitch (1974) model of working memory. Across a series of seven experiments, working memory was found highly involved in encoding instructions. On the basis of these findings it is concluded that the central executive involvement was found to be most substantial, supporting the encoding and maintenance of sequences of actions. The phonological loop appears to play a general supporting role in registry and maintenance of verbal instructions. The contribution of the visuospatial sketchpad appears to be to encode and bind visual and spatial cues in an action, as well as retaining the sequence of actions, possibly via forming a map of locations of to-be-enacted objects. These roles of working memory were similar in following spoken and written instructions. The secondary aim of the thesis was to investigate the action advantage in following instructions, which refers to the superior performance in enacting instruction sequences than simply recalling them verbally. This action advantage was established in both spoken and written instructions in a task paradigm containing rich visual spatial and motor cues, although was absent in a computer-based task involved limited actions upon abstract shapes. As the action advantage was not selectively impaired by the concurrent tasks employed in these experiments, its origins are unlikely to be in working memory. It is therefore concluded that working memory contributes substantial to the following of instructions, but it is not the source of the action advantage present in a rich task environment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Psychology (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.550471
Depositing User: Tianxiao Yang
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2012 12:11
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:19
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2117

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