CNBC researchers, led by Professor Lynne Reder, uncover a critical relationship between working memory and the strength of information “chunks”. Published in Psychonomic Bulletin Review, they show for the first time that it is easier to learn new facts that are composed of more familiar chunks.  

“We are suggesting that working memory capacity is not a fixed quantity but interacts with the familiarity of the elements that need to be processed. If everything is very familiar, it is easy to comprehend and build new knowledge. If all of the components are unfamiliar, the task becomes very difficult or impossible,” said Lynne Reder, professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and a leading expert on memory, cognition and behavior. Reder is also a member of CMU’s Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. (read more)