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What is Working Memory?

Studies consistently show that most people with attention problems also have a working memory deficit.

  • Working Memory involves the ability to hold information in our minds for a short period of time. We need to be able to hold new information in our minds and keep it active while we use it in some way. We need this basic cognitve skill to be able to learn and perform everyday tasks.
  • We rely on absorbing information through our senses, such as what we see and hear, and also storing that information temporarily. Attention plays a big role in this as we need to be able to focus, shut out distractions, and concentrate to be able to follow directions, learn, and complete complex tasks. 

  • We have two kinds of memory that work togther: auditory memory (absorbing and remembering what we hear) and a visuo-spatial memory (absorbing and remembering what we see).
  • Some memory tasks require us to directly recall what we have just learnt, such as remembering an address, shopping items, or where we put our keys. Other tasks require more complex processing such as holding information in our minds while reordering and prioritising which job to complete first, or holding numbers in our mind while performing a mental calculation. Some people do not have the mental energies to organise their mind to even initiate tasks, while others may forget steps they are completing, or have trouble staying on task to get to the end result.
  • Everyone has a limit to what they can remember, however, for some people who have a weak memory, they are even less able to manage even some of the basic demands of school, work or general day to day functioning. 
  • There is a relationship between short term working memory and long term memory. Information that we attend to can be transferred or encoded into long-term memory for more permanent storage. Information is retrieved from long-term memory into working memory in order to assist with making sense of new information.

  • Working memory difficulties often co-exist with other issues, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD but they can also be a stand-alone problem.


How can I tell if I may have a Working Memory problem?

Use the checklists to determine whether our intervention may benefit you:

Child Memory Checklist

Adult Memory Checklist 

Expert in the field, Dr Susan Gathercole explains Working Memory

Dr Susan Gathercole explains Working Memory and why it is important, particularly for children.