Embedded-Process Model

An alternative cognitive architecture for working memory. Cowan proposed that working memory does not consist of separate verbal, visual, and spatial short-term stores that are independent structures from long-term memory. Rather than a separate neurological location for temporary storage, short-term memory is instead the currently and transiently activated subset of long-term memory. Short-term memory is thus an embedded process within long-term memory, according to Cowan. These currently active representations are more readily accessible to conscious awareness than are those that must be retrieved from an inactive state in long-term memory. However, the active representations decay over 20 seconds or so unless they are maintained by rehearsal. Last, Cowan proposed that mental representations in the current focus of attention are most accessible. In other words, the current focus of attention is a process embedded within activated short-term memory.

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Embedded-Process Model
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