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Department of Psychology Cognitive Psychology

The binding hypothesis – A unified account of cognitive individual differences?

Almost all cognitive processing requires the temporary storage of information. For example, when solving math problems, such as (3 + 6) * 2, the terms and intermediate results of the equation must be held active in memory. The cognitive system used for this is working memory (WM). Individual differences in the capacity of WM - the amount of information people can hold active for current processing - is strongly related to various cognitive abilities, such as intelligence, processing speed, and learning. Yet, it is still unclear which processes limit the capacity of WM. Thus, identifying the specific cognitive processes limiting WM capacity is essential for a better understanding of cognitive individual differences in general.  

The binding hypothesis proposes that working memory capacity is limited by the number and strength of bindings a person can form and maintain in WM. The binding hypothesis distinguishes between two types of bindings. Declarative bindings associate declarative information with each other, for example a digit with its position in an authentication code. Procedural bindings associate declarative information with behavioral responses, for example a keypress on a keyboard to a certain letter.

This project aims to develop tasks and formal models to investigate 1) if a general ability for forming and maintaining bindings in both declarative and procedural WM can explain why capacity of WM is limited. And 2) if binding ability provides a unifying account of the relationship of individual differences in WM capacity with other cognitive processes, such as intelligence, processing speed, and learning.

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