Working Memory Definition (Gwm)

Short Term Memory and Working Memory

Short term memory and working memory have distinct definitions in cognitive psychology, although they are both aspects of the same underlying factor of general intelligence – Gwm.

A technical definition of Gwm is given by Dr McGrew:

The ability to apprehend and maintain awareness of a limited number of elements of information in the immediate situation (events that occurred in the last minute or so). A limited-capacity system that loses information quickly through the decay of memory traces, unless an individual activates other cognitive resources to maintain the information in immediate awareness.

We use our limited capacity short-term memory for:

  • remembering a telephone number before dialling it or writing it down
  • remembering what you have to get when you go shopping
  • holding directions in mind when you are driving

Working Memory

But more important than just holding information ‘in mind’ is being able to do mental operations on that information – to solve a problem, to figure something out, or reason through something to find an answer.

The ability to manipulate information mentally while screening out distracting information is a type of short-term memory called working memory. Working memory is the minds ‘workspace’. With working memory you think with and comprehend information, as well as briefly storing it.

Working Memory Capacity

The average capacity of working memory is much less than 7. Most people have a working memory capacity of about 2 or 3. i3® Mindware is based on a dual n-back training task. The software increases your working memory capacity to 5 or more.

The Working Memory – IQ Link

People vary widely in their working memory capacity, and that these differences predict general intelligence level as measured by standardized IQ tests. General intelligence depends on working memory because working memory affects a wide range of complex cognitive tasks besides figuring out a tip, involving reasoning problem solving, and making sense of things. We use working memory when we reason, plan and problem solve – hallmarks of intelligence.

Tests of Gwm

The n-back itself is a test of working memory capacity. The symmetry and operational span tests in the HRV Test Battery (RP) are the most widely used, valid tests of working memory, particularly in combination.


McGrew, K. S. (2009). Intelligence 37, 1–10.