What do we remember while we drive? Understanding working memory and its components’ interactions can help answer this question. Generally, working memory is a multi-component system which consists of the visuospatial sketchpad (VSS), the phonological loop (PL), the central executive, and the episodic buffer. The visuospatial sketchpad and phonological loop, regulated by the overarching central executive, process in short-term storages the most immediately relevant perceptual information, while the episodic buffer mediates interactions between the two. In some cases, however, working memory can falter when a component engaged in a primary task, such as driving, is activated further by a concurrent task. The present study aimed to investigate the effects of different cognitive loads on working memory in driving contexts to better understand working memory function in general and provide insight on the following question: Is working memory more domain-general or domain-specific in nature in everyday contexts? To do so, participants watched a simulated drive, indicated on which side of the street they observed a road sign, completed a concurrent cognitive load task (verbal or spatial), and completed a road sign recall task. Recall measures demonstrated a significant main effect of load group, as participants in the “Verbal Load” condition recalled more signs than those in the “Spatial Load” condition. A significant main effect of sign type was also found, as participants recalled more verbal signs than symbolic signs. However, the effect of cognitive load group on sign recall did not significantly depend on the type of sign being recalled.


Foster, Nathaniel




Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology


Working memory, domain-specific, domain-general, driving

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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