Working Memory 1

Another Name for Short Term Memory: Exploring the Depths of Working Memory

In the vast realm of cognitive processes, memory plays a vital role in our everyday lives. It allows us to retain and recall information, enabling us to navigate through the world. While long-term memory is often discussed and well-known, another essential aspect of memory is short-term memory. Short-term memory, also known as working memory, is a temporary storage system that allows us to hold and manipulate information for a brief period. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of short-term memory and explore its functions, limitations, and the fascinating mechanisms that govern its operations.

Short Term Memory

Another Name for Short Term Memory

Short-term memory is commonly referred to by another name in the field of cognitive psychology—working memory. Working memory aptly describes the active nature of this cognitive system, emphasizing its role in manipulating and processing information rather than merely storing it. Unlike long-term memory, which involves the consolidation of memories over time, working memory enables us to work with information in real-time, facilitating our cognitive processes.

The Functions of Working Memory

Working memory serves as the mental workspace where we temporarily hold and manipulate information for various cognitive tasks. It plays a crucial role in several cognitive processes, including learning, problem-solving, decision-making, and comprehension. Let’s explore some of the primary functions of working memory:

Encoding and Storage

Working memory aids in the initial encoding and storage of information before it is either forgotten or transferred to long-term memory. It allows us to hold new information for a short duration, facilitating further processing.

Attention and Focus

Attention and Focus

Working memory assists in maintaining attention and focus on a particular task or goal. It helps filter out irrelevant information and focus on the relevant aspects, preventing distractions and promoting efficient cognitive processing.

Mental Arithmetic

Working memory plays a crucial role in mental calculations, allowing us to hold and manipulate numbers temporarily. Whether it’s calculating the tip at a restaurant or solving complex mathematical problems, working memory is involved in these mental operations.

Language Comprehension

Working memory contributes to our ability to comprehend and understand language. It helps us retain the meaning of words and sentences, enabling smooth and coherent communication.


Working memory facilitates problem-solving by holding relevant information and manipulating it to find solutions. It allows us to keep track of intermediate steps and evaluate different options in our minds.

The Capacity and Limitations of Working Memory

The Capacity and Limitations of Working Memory

Working memory has a limited capacity, which means it can only hold a certain amount of information at any given time. The exact capacity of working memory varies from individual to individual but typically falls within the range of 5 to 9 items. This capacity can be increased through strategies like chunking, which involves grouping information into meaningful units.

While working memory is a crucial cognitive system, it has its limitations. One limitation is the limited duration of information retention. Without rehearsal or active processing, information stored in working memory can fade away within seconds. Additionally, working memory is highly susceptible to interference from other stimuli, which can disrupt the retention and manipulation of information.

FAQs about Another Name for Short Term Memory

Q1. What is the relationship between short-term memory and working memory?

Short-term memory and working memory are often used interchangeably, as they refer to the same cognitive system. Working memory emphasizes the active processes involved in manipulating and processing information, while short-term memory refers to the temporary storage aspect of this cognitive system.

Q2. How long does information typically stay in working memory?

Information stored in working memory typically lasts for a few seconds, ranging from 10 to 20 seconds, without active rehearsal or manipulation. However, through strategies like rehearsal and attention, information can be retained for longer periods.

Q3. Can working memory capacity be improved?

Yes, working memory capacity can be improved through various cognitive training exercises. These exercises often involve tasks that challenge working memory, such as dual n-back tasks or digit span tests. Regular practice and training can lead to enhanced working memory capacity.

Q4. What happens if working memory becomes overloaded?

If working memory becomes overloaded with too much information, it can lead to cognitive overload and impair performance. Overloading working memory can result in decreased attention, increased errors, and difficulties in processing and comprehending information.

Q5. Are there individual differences in working memory capacity?

Yes, there are individual differences in working memory capacity. Some individuals naturally have a larger working memory capacity, allowing them to hold and manipulate more information simultaneously. These individual differences can impact various cognitive tasks, such as learning, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Q6. Can working memory deficits be a sign of cognitive impairment?

Yes, working memory deficits can be indicative of cognitive impairments or disorders. Conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury, and certain neurological disorders can impact working memory functioning.


Working memory, also known as another name for short-term memory, is a fundamental cognitive system that allows us to hold and manipulate information in real-time. It plays a vital role in various cognitive processes, from learning and problem-solving to language comprehension and decision-making. Understanding the mechanisms and limitations of working memory can help us optimize our cognitive functioning and improve our overall cognitive abilities.

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