Taboo: Working memory and mental control in an interactive task

Whitney A. Hansen, Stephen Goldinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Individual differences in working memory (WM) predict principled variation in tasks of reasoning, response time, memory, and other abilities. Theoretically, a central function of WM is keeping task-relevant information easily accessible while suppressing irrelevant information. The present experiment was a novel study of mental control, using performance in the game Taboo as a measure. We tested effects of WM capacity on several indices, including perseveration errors (repeating previous guesses or clues) and taboo errors (saying at least part of a taboo or target word). By most measures, high-span participants were superior to low-span participants: High-spans were better at guessing answers, better at encouraging correct guesses from teammates, and less likely to either repeat themselves or produce taboo clues. Differences in taboo errors occurred only in an easy control condition. The results suggest that WM capacity predicts behavior in tasks requiring mental control, extending this finding to an interactive group setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-291
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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