The Contributions of Primary and Secondary Memory to Working Memory Capacity: An Individual Differences Analysis of Immediate Free Recall

Nash Unsworth, Gregory J. Spillers, Gene Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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The present study tested the dual-component model of working memory capacity (WMC) by examining estimates of primary memory and secondary memory from an immediate free recall task. Participants completed multiple measures of WMC and general intellectual ability as well as multiple trials of an immediate free recall task. It was demonstrated that there are 2 sources of variance (primary memory and secondary memory) in immediate free recall and that, further, these 2 sources of variance accounted for independent variation in WMC. Together, these results are consistent with a dual-component model of WMC reflecting individual differences in maintenance in primary memory and in retrieval from secondary memory. Theoretical implications for working memory and dual-component models of free recall are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-247
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes



  • immediate free recall
  • primary memory
  • secondary memory
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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