The role of processing difficulty in the predictive utility of working memory span
Storage-plus-processing working memory span tasks (e.g., operation span [OSPAN]) are strong predictors of higher order cognition, including general fluid intelligence. This is due, in part, to the difficulty of the processing component. When the processing component prevents only articulatory rehearsal, but not executive attentional control, the predictive utility is attenuated. Participants in one experiment (N = 59) completed Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM) and multiple versions of OSPAN and probed recall (PR). A distractor task (high or low difficulty) was added to PR, and OSPAN's processing component was manipulated for difficulty. OSPAN and PR correlated with RAPM when the processing component took executive attentional control. These results are suggestive of resource sharing between processing and storage.