Working memory capacity: Limits on the bandwidth of cognition

Earl K. Miller, Timothy J. Buschman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Why can your brain store a lifetime of experiences but process only a few thoughts at once? In this article we discuss “cognitive capacity” (the number of items that can be held “in mind” simultaneously) and suggest that the limit is inherent to processing based on oscillatory brain rhythms, or “brain waves,” which may regulate neural communication. Neurons that “hum” together temporarily “wire” together, allowing the brain to form and re-form networks on the fly, which may explain a hallmark of intelligence and cognition: mental flexibility. But this comes at a cost; only a small number of thoughts can fit into each wave. This explains why you should never talk on a mobile phone when driving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDaedalus
Volume144
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 21 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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