Variation in strategy use across measures of verbal working memory

Alexandra B. Morrison, Gail M. Rosenbaum, Damien Fair, Jason M. Chein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The working memory (WM) literature contains a number of tasks that vary on dimensions such as when or how memory items are reported. In addition to the ways in which WM tasks are designed to differ, tasks may also diverge according to the strategies participants use during task performance. The present study included seven tasks from the WM literature, each requiring short-term retention of verbal items. Following completion of a small number of trials from each task, individuals completed a self-report questionnaire to identify their primary strategy. Results indicated substantial variation across individuals for a given task, and within the same individual across tasks. Moreover, while direct comparisons between tasks showed that some tasks evinced similar patterns of strategy use despite differing task demands, others showed markedly different patterns of self-reported strategy use. A community detection algorithm, aimed at identifying groups of individuals based on their profile of strategic choices, revealed unique communities of individuals who are dependent on specific strategies under varying demands. Together, the findings suggest that researchers using common WM paradigms should very carefully consider the implications of variation in strategy use when interpreting their findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-936
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported in part by funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH (DA031436) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR N00014-11-1-0399). We would like to thank the many research assistants and students who assisted with execution of the study, especially Naomi Streeter, Danielle Adinolfi, and Suwathna Reel.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Mnemonics
  • Short term memory
  • Strategy
  • Working memory


Dive into the research topics of 'Variation in strategy use across measures of verbal working memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this