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Working memory performance is impaired when an attention-demanding task is executed during memory retention. The cognitive load effect is the consistent finding that the size of the memory impairment is determined by the relative amount of time that the secondary processing task occupies attention during memory retention. Cognitive load has been proposed to be a Priority-A benchmark any model of working memory should be able to explain (Oberauer et al., 2018), in part because the effect appears to generalize across different experimental procedures and materials. Using a standard dual-task procedure, we detail four experiments using a visual working memory recall task, two requiring memory for low-level features and two requiring memory for canonical angles (up, down, left, right, etc.). In all four experiments, we failed to find a cognitive load effect, calling into question the generality of the cognitive load effect and whether it is driving forgetting in multitasking contexts.


This work was originally published in Journal of Cognition available at

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