The Central Executive Component of Working Memory
Annual rept. 1 Sep 1990-31 Aug 1991,
MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL CAMBRIDGE (UNITED KINGDOM) APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY UNIT
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This research is based upon the hypothesis that three different phenomena - behavioural impairments after frontal lobe damage, general intelligence or Spearmans g, and interference between dissimilar concurrent tasks-all reflect the operation of a central executive CE system involved in the organization of many different kinds of behaviour. Four sets of experiments are presented. One set shows the frontal lobe damage produces massive impairments in intelligence tests based on current problem-solving ability. A second shows that one characteristic frontal error - mismatch between knowledge of a tasks requirement and the resultant behaviour - can also be reliably produced in normals, and is closely related to g. The third set of experiments is based on the idea that executive processes lose importance as behaviour becomes stereotyped or automatic. If so, generating random sequences should load the CE, whatever their particular content, and the experiments indeed suggest that the demands of random generation are similar for verbal and manual materials. Similarly, the fourth set of experiments suggests that correlations between reaction time and g diminish with practice only if there are no switches in mental set. It is proposed that the CE is a system for detectionselection of goal states in novel behavioural settings.