working memory

noun

Definition of working memory

: memory that involves storing, focusing attention on, and manipulating information for a relatively short period of time (such as a few seconds) A simple activity involving working memory is the carry-over operation in mental arithmetic, which requires temporarily storing a string of numbers and holding the sum of one addition in mind while calculating the next.— Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic Your short-term memory might help you to remember what someone has just said to you, for example, but your working memory would allow you to recite it to them backwards or pick out the first letter of each word.— Jonathan K. Foster — compare long-term memory, short-term memory

Examples of working memory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The bill refers to neurological studies showing that young people’s cognitive development – including in the areas of the brain governing impulse control and working memory – continues into the mid-20s. Jacob Turcotte, The Christian Science Monitor, "Shootings by police: Would hiring older recruits stem the tide?," 3 Feb. 2021 His group has tried, without success, to evoke eye movements in one macaque and to impair working memory function in another. Kelly Servick, Science | AAAS, "Controlling monkey brains with light could get easier thanks to open data project," 28 Oct. 2020 Although the jury is still out, there is evidence that short-term working memory training can provide benefits to relatively high functioning individuals, such as college students. Susanne M. Jaeggi, Scientific American, "Does 'Brain Training' Actually Work?," 24 Sep. 2020 But their lack of a neocortex—the area of the mammalian brain where working memory, planning, and problem solving happen—has long puzzled scientists. Virginia Morell, Science | AAAS, "Newfound brain structure explains why some birds are so smart—and maybe even self-aware," 24 Sep. 2020 Other research teams have confirmed that decreasing visual distractions can reduce cognitive load and free up working memory. Rebecca Renner, National Geographic, "Why pandemic stress breeds clutter—and how to break the cycle," 4 Aug. 2020 Research shows that as little as a 1-3% loss of body fluid can impair mood, reduce concentration, increase headaches and fatigue, interfere with working memory, and boost anxiety. Cynthia Sass, Mph, Health.com, "8 Health Benefits of Watermelon, According to a Nutritionist," 12 Aug. 2020 In every case, the frontal cortex, which plays a key role in cognitive control, working memory, attention, and emotional reactions, came alive on the fMRI screen. Rebecca Renner, National Geographic, "Why pandemic stress breeds clutter—and how to break the cycle," 4 Aug. 2020 This area is important for empathy, the understanding of others’ thoughts and intentions, and verbal working memory used for expressing thought. Robert Martone, Scientific American, "Music Synchronizes the Brains of Performers and Their Audience," 2 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'working memory.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of working memory

1980, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about working memory

Time Traveler for working memory

Time Traveler

The first known use of working memory was in 1980

See more words from the same year

Statistics for working memory

Last Updated

14 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Working memory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/working%20memory. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for working memory

working memory

noun

Medical Definition of working memory

: memory that involves storing, focusing attention on, and manipulating information for a relatively short period of time (such as a few seconds) A simple activity involving working memory is the carry-over operation in mental arithmetic, which requires temporarily storing a string of numbers and holding the sum of one addition in mind while calculating the next.— Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic, Scientific American, September 1992 Your short-term memory might help you to remember what someone has just said to you, for example, but your working memory would allow you to recite it to them backwards or pick out the first letter of each word.— Jonathan K. Foster, New Scientist, 3 Dec. 2011

Comments on working memory

What made you want to look up working memory? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!