Regain Focus: Improve Working Memory Techniques

Andy Charters
.
August 23, 2023
Mindset & Growth

We can make ourselves smarter, more alert, and more capable of making better decisions by performing a few simple exercises.

Have you ever tried to focus on just one important task, only to feel that your mind has been spinning like a pinball machine?

Despite your best efforts, ideas continue to bounce around in your head, fighting for your attention.

Suddenly, you begin thinking about what dress you're going to wear for your date or remembering a discussion you had with a friend a few days ago.

By simply improving your working memory, you can control and protect your thoughts from outside influences.

What does the term "working memory" mean?

Holding information in your mind for any period of time is an indicator of working memory, which cognitive neuroscientists refer to like this.

Examples include remembering phone numbers while you are listening to them and then dialing them, or remembering road signs while searching for specific landmarks.

In the case of working memory, there is a limit to how much information it can hold at once.

Your working memory is constantly being bombarded by new thoughts and experiences that try to take over your focus.

However, there are ways to enhance working memory.

How do we keep our thoughts while working?

A new theory proposed by psychologists Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch suggests there are multiple 'buffers' for storing information, which is controlled by the Central Executive, a supervisory system.

We first need to understand how our working memory works before we can figure out how to increase it.

1. Episodic Buffers

A new component of Baddeley's theory was introduced in 2000, the episodic buffer, aimed at forming integrated units of visual and verbal information time-sequenced, which was not originally part of his theory.

By putting large chunks of information into context, we can recall the plot of novels or movies.

2. Phonological Loop

You probably heard your inner voice repeating a sequence over and over in what's known as the phonological loop while you tried to recall a phone number.

In a sense, we turn information into sound-based 'codes' when we hear it.

We actively rehearse the code ‘speaking’ with our minds’ voices and ‘listening’ with the minds' ears in a continuous loop, like an internal echo box, in order to prevent the information from decaying.

However, longer sequences easily fall out of the loop, which is why they are hard to remember. Usually, the first few items have already been removed by the end of the sequence.

According to the American psychologist George Miller, on average most people are only able to hold seven items in their working memory at a time in his paper The magic number seven, plus or minus two.  

3. Visuospatial Sketchpad

Close your eyes and think about a room you are familiar with. Name the objects on the wall from right to left.

With your mind's eye, you are developing, inspecting, and navigating a mental image by using the visuospatial sketchpad, a part of working memory.

On the one hand, the phonological loop is concerned with sounds, while on the other, the sketchpad is concerned with visual memory.



Tying Everything Together

Working memory serves as the executive control, determining what information is retained and where it should be stored.

A functional executive integrates and coordinates the information in the three buffers as well as provides a workspace for working with and manipulating the information.

The executive control is the board on which you piece together the three different buffers to build something new if the buffers are like Lego bins.

The Best Way to Boost Working Memory

We have a very important cognitive function called working memory.

Everything from learning the alphabet to meeting deadlines, prioritizing multiple activities, and understanding social situations is made easier through it.

Studies have found that working memory is a better indicator of academic success than intelligence with 98% of children with poor working memory performing poorly on standardized tests of reading comprehension and mathematics.

How can we boost our working memory capacity?

  • Reducing Your Stress Level

reducing

There is increasing evidence that stress negatively impacts our working memory.

People with more stress in their lives have lower working memory performance in simple cognitive tasks.

Mindfulness Meditation is the key to reducing your stress.

Take a few minutes to empty your head when unwanted thoughts begin to creep into your mind.

It will help you regain your composure and your focus once you are back at work.

  • Work It Out

workout
workout

High-intensity exercise can also improve working memory.

Following intense exercise, working memory deteriorates, but after a short recovery period, it increases compared to those who have not.

Working out can be good for boosting your working memory capacity as well, just like it can benefit your general mental performance.

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Regain Focus: Improve Working Memory Techniques

February 16, 2024

We can make ourselves smarter, more alert, and more capable of making better decisions by performing a few simple exercises.

Have you ever tried to focus on just one important task, only to feel that your mind has been spinning like a pinball machine?

Despite your best efforts, ideas continue to bounce around in your head, fighting for your attention.

Suddenly, you begin thinking about what dress you're going to wear for your date or remembering a discussion you had with a friend a few days ago.

By simply improving your working memory, you can control and protect your thoughts from outside influences.

What does the term "working memory" mean?

Holding information in your mind for any period of time is an indicator of working memory, which cognitive neuroscientists refer to like this.

Examples include remembering phone numbers while you are listening to them and then dialing them, or remembering road signs while searching for specific landmarks.

In the case of working memory, there is a limit to how much information it can hold at once.

Your working memory is constantly being bombarded by new thoughts and experiences that try to take over your focus.

However, there are ways to enhance working memory.

How do we keep our thoughts while working?

A new theory proposed by psychologists Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch suggests there are multiple 'buffers' for storing information, which is controlled by the Central Executive, a supervisory system.

We first need to understand how our working memory works before we can figure out how to increase it.

1. Episodic Buffers

A new component of Baddeley's theory was introduced in 2000, the episodic buffer, aimed at forming integrated units of visual and verbal information time-sequenced, which was not originally part of his theory.

By putting large chunks of information into context, we can recall the plot of novels or movies.

2. Phonological Loop

You probably heard your inner voice repeating a sequence over and over in what's known as the phonological loop while you tried to recall a phone number.

In a sense, we turn information into sound-based 'codes' when we hear it.

We actively rehearse the code ‘speaking’ with our minds’ voices and ‘listening’ with the minds' ears in a continuous loop, like an internal echo box, in order to prevent the information from decaying.

However, longer sequences easily fall out of the loop, which is why they are hard to remember. Usually, the first few items have already been removed by the end of the sequence.

According to the American psychologist George Miller, on average most people are only able to hold seven items in their working memory at a time in his paper The magic number seven, plus or minus two.  

3. Visuospatial Sketchpad

Close your eyes and think about a room you are familiar with. Name the objects on the wall from right to left.

With your mind's eye, you are developing, inspecting, and navigating a mental image by using the visuospatial sketchpad, a part of working memory.

On the one hand, the phonological loop is concerned with sounds, while on the other, the sketchpad is concerned with visual memory.



Tying Everything Together

Working memory serves as the executive control, determining what information is retained and where it should be stored.

A functional executive integrates and coordinates the information in the three buffers as well as provides a workspace for working with and manipulating the information.

The executive control is the board on which you piece together the three different buffers to build something new if the buffers are like Lego bins.

The Best Way to Boost Working Memory

We have a very important cognitive function called working memory.

Everything from learning the alphabet to meeting deadlines, prioritizing multiple activities, and understanding social situations is made easier through it.

Studies have found that working memory is a better indicator of academic success than intelligence with 98% of children with poor working memory performing poorly on standardized tests of reading comprehension and mathematics.

How can we boost our working memory capacity?

  • Reducing Your Stress Level

reducing

There is increasing evidence that stress negatively impacts our working memory.

People with more stress in their lives have lower working memory performance in simple cognitive tasks.

Mindfulness Meditation is the key to reducing your stress.

Take a few minutes to empty your head when unwanted thoughts begin to creep into your mind.

It will help you regain your composure and your focus once you are back at work.

  • Work It Out

workout
workout

High-intensity exercise can also improve working memory.

Following intense exercise, working memory deteriorates, but after a short recovery period, it increases compared to those who have not.

Working out can be good for boosting your working memory capacity as well, just like it can benefit your general mental performance.

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