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A psychometric measure of working memory capacity for configured body movement.


Working memory (WM) models have traditionally assumed at least two domain-specific storage systems for verbal and visuo-spatial information. We review data that suggest the existence of an additional slave system devoted to the temporary storage of body movements, and present a novel instrument for its assessment: the movement span task. The movement span task assesses individuals' ability to remember and reproduce meaningless configurations of the body. During the encoding phase of a trial, participants watch short videos of meaningless movements presented in sets varying in size from one to five items. Immediately after encoding, they are prompted to reenact as many items as possible. The movement span task was administered to 90 participants along with standard tests of verbal WM, visuo-spatial WM, and a gesture classification test in which participants judged whether a speaker's gestures were congruent or incongruent with his accompanying speech. Performance on the gesture classification task was not related to standard measures of verbal or visuo-spatial working memory capacity, but was predicted by scores on the movement span task. Results suggest the movement span task can serve as an assessment of individual differences in WM capacity for body-centric information.

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