Friday, December 7, 2018
Strategy use fully mediates the relationship between working memory capacity and performance on Raven’s matrices
Gonthier, C., & Thomassin, N. (2015). Strategy use fully mediates the relationship between working memory capacity and performance on Raven’s matrices. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144, 916-924.
Working memory capacity (WMC) refers to the amount of information that can be held briefly in mind for processing. Working memory capacity is closely associated with fluid intelligence, the ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations. It has been suggested that working memory capacity and fluid intelligence are related because they both rely on controlled attention, the ability to direct one’s attention to relevant information and away from irrelevant information. It may be, however, that the ability to use strategies to support working memory drives the relationship between working memory capacity and fluid intelligence. Strategies are procedures that facilitate the achievement of a higher level goal or task.
The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which strategy use may influence performance on a common fluid intelligence measure. In the fluid intelligence task, the person is shown an incomplete matrix that follows logical rules along with 8 possible pieces to complete the matrix. The person chooses the piece that completes the matrix. One effective strategy that can be used to complete this task, constructive matching, is to create a mental representation of the answer and then look for a match among the alternatives. A less effective strategy, response elimination, consists of comparing the features of the problem and each alternative response until one answer is identified. In study 1, university students were asked to complete the matrix reasoning task either without instruction (control) or after receiving instruction on the use of the constructive matching strategy. It was hypothesized that if strategy use accounts for the relationship between working memory capacity and fluid intelligence, then the relationship between these two constructs should decrease when participants are not using their strategy of choice. The results were consistent with this hypothesis in that the relationship between WMC and matrix reasoning was lower in the group instructed on a particular strategy. In study 2, participants were asked about their strategy use after completing the task (which was completed without instruction on strategy use). Results revealed that the relationship between WMC and matrix reasoning was mediated by strategy use.
The findings suggest that strategies play a critical role in the relationship between working memory and fluid intelligence. Teaching strategies to support working memory may be effective in supporting reasoning.
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