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Attention and MemoryAn Integrated Framework$
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Nelson Cowan

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780195119107

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195119107.001.0001

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Actual versus “virtual” short-term memory phenomena

Actual versus “virtual” short-term memory phenomena

(p.111) 4. Actual versus “virtual” short-term memory phenomena
Attention and Memory

Nelson Cowan

Oxford University Press

In computer jargon, virtual memory is the use of a specially-designated portion of long-term memory to hold information that needs to be retrieved quickly. This chapter considers that the same type of function may occur in the human mind; long-term memory representations can be marked as relevant to the current context and thereby retrieved quickly, from a “virtual short-term store” that expands the capabilities of short-term memory. Evidence for this possibility is amassed from the short-term recall literature. The notion of virtual short-term memory was conceived contemporaneously with Ericsson and Kintsch's “long-term working memory”, which consequently was not cited. A different empirical base was used, so this chapter complements Ericsson and Kintsch. The chapter provides evidence against a “monistic view” in which the only type of working memory is long-term working memory; it provides evidence that true short-term memory also exists.

Keywords:   current context, Ericsson and Kintsch, long-term working memory, monistic view, recency effects, virtual memory, virtual short-term store

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