Visuo-spatial and verbal working memory in the five-disc tower of London task: An individual differences approach

Thinking and Reasoning 8 (3):165 – 178 (2002)
This paper reports a study of the roles of visuo-spatial and verbal working memory capacities in solving a planning task - the five-disc Tower of London (TOL) task. An individual differences approach was taken. Sixty adult participants were tested on 20 TOL tasks of varying difficulty. Total moves over the 20 TOL tasks was taken as a measure of performance. Participants were also assessed on measures of fluid intelligence (Raven's matrices), verbal short-term storage (Digit span), verbal working memory span (Silly Sentence span), visuo-spatial short-term storage (Visual Pattern span and Corsi Block span), visuo-spatial working memory (Corsi Distance Estimation), visuo-spatial processing speed (Manikin test), and verbal speed (Rehearsal speed). Exploratory factor analysis using an oblique rotation method revealed three factors which were interpreted as (1) a visuo-spatial working memory factor, (2) an age-speed factor, and (3) a verbal working memory factor. The visuo-spatial and verbal factors were only moderately correlated. Performance on the TOL task loaded on the visuo-spatial factor but did not load on the other factors. It is concluded that the predominant goal-selection strategy adopted in solving the TOL relies on visuo-spatial working memory capacity and particularly involves the active ''inner scribe'' spatial rehearsal mechanism. These correlational analyses confirm and extend results previously obtained by use of dual task methods, (Phillips, Wynn, Gilhooly, Della Sala, & Logie, 1999).
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