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Working memory in chess
Robbins, T., Anderson, E., Barker, D., Bradley, A., Fearneyhough, C., Henson, R., Hudson, S. & Baddeley, A.
Memory & Cognition, 24, 83-93
Year of publication:
Three experiments investigated the role of working memory in various aspects of thinking in chess. Experiment 1 examined the immediate memory for briefly presented chess positions from master games in players from a wide range of ability, following the imposition of various secondary tasks designed to block separate components of working memory. Suppression of the articulatory loop (by preventing subvocal rehearsal) had no effect on measures of recall, whereas the conditions of blocking the visuospatial sketchpad (manipulation of a keypad) or the central executive (random letter generation), had equivalent disruptive effects, in comparison with a control condition. Experiment 2 investigated the effects of similar secondary tasks on the solution (move selection) of tactical chess positions and a similar pattern was found, except that blocking the central executive was much more disruptive than in Experiment 1. Experiment 3 compared performance on two types of primary task, one concerned with solving chess positions as in Experiment 2, and the other a sentence re-arrangement task. The secondary tasks in each case were both designed to block the central executive, but one was verbal (vocal generation of random numbers) while the other was spatial in nature (random generation of key presses). Performance of the spatial secondary task was affected to a greater extent by the Chess primary task than the Verbal primary task. In none of the three experiments were there any differential effects between weak and strong players. These results are interpreted in the context of the working memory model, and previous theories of cognition in chess.