So…. ‘Working Memory’….What is it?
Some of us are better at using it than others. Some might refer to it as multitasking, but for now lets assume it is part of memory.
Easiest example is when a person cannot keep walking at the same time as writing a text..
Or watch the footie match at the same time as listen closely to a wife’s detailed delivery about her daily trials.
The ‘working memory’ part of the brain …. and – all we have to play with – is a part of the brain about the size of a pea. !! That is it!! [TED Talk link below and not me knowing this complex stuff I might add]
So – if I were to ask you to memorise a list of 5 things that I said to you (aloud) and following that, ask you to do some complex maths, and then ask you to do a specific complex movement with your hands….. – how many items would you remember?
(average 2 or 3 apparently)
I was surprised when I listened to this TED Talk today because I utilised my ‘prior knowledge’ or my ‘life experiences’ you might say to help with the list. [not intended as a boast] but in understanding how my brain likes to lay down memory (NLP processes?) I could memories the list more effectively than ever before.
Now that I have understood that one of my preferred interfaces with the world is in ‘pictures’ I made a mental ‘movie’ of the list as it was dictated. So even over 12 hours later I have an internal video of a ‘tree, and highway, a mirror, saturn and a micro chip’. At some point my brain invented a hammer and nail to hang the mirror on the tree next to the highway with saturn and its rings shining brightly (if a little orangey) through the trees… the micro chip hung in mid air – so was harder to recall later!
Working memory is aided and abetted by long term memory, in my case about making a mental picture of the list of words.
This TED Talk is important to me because it backs up with science what CCL and Coaching is in relating to, for example, ‘Learning a new task’.
It is ONLY when the working memory is working in conjunction with the long term memory that NEW concepts and theories are laid down as internal facts. [Rubbish sentence – and please add your own versions below IF you are still reading this!! 🙂 ]
When I used to give a verbal ‘briefing’ on a manoeuvre [as I was instructed to do] – most could not keep the list in their heads.It was my list. My internal video.
Now I have changed my approach – I sit by and listen to, or watch them with a pen or little car visualise how they will perform the task.
That learner is using their ‘working memory’ alongside long term memory to create a mental map of the procedure they need to use.
Because they use both bits of brain together the manoeuvre is ‘learned’ and set to memory before they have even attempted it (usually) though the action then cements the hypothesis.
I also FIRMLY believe this ‘working memory’ concept is why we should stop at the side of the road to talk about more complex issues – and why it depends so much upon who you have in the driver’s seat. There is no deep learning from overtaxing that ‘working memory’. Some can manage to drive amid that much complexity on the move – some can’t, so we may need to stop.
Ted Link below 🙂