Working Memory: The Cognitive Juggle

Some days I am exhausted with my own neuro challenges. There are days I actually feel sorry for myself and frustrated when my own dyslexia slows me down or keeps me from recognizing my own errors. It can be exhausting, navigating my chronic spider web of racing thoughts, working to pin them down in ways that others can comprehend. Other days, like today. I am humbled by my clients and the real nero obstacles they face on a daily basis. The work these guys of mine do just to gather their things and make it to an appointment on time is often times more work than I know.

What is Working Memory?

Working memory is naturally brief, it is that cognitive space that holds all things go to be sorted and organized. In this place, our minds make quick decisions about what information is relevant now, later, and where we assign labels of all kinds and sort. It is a mental holding space, a little cognitive plate that holds information briefly, but when it inevitably overflows, information will fall to the waist side, often as if it never existed. All of this cognitive action takes place in about 10-15 seconds for most of us (Goldstein, 2010). To some degree, we all know this human limitation, but that is not to say we all experience it equally. These areas of mental functioning are not meant to be long term; after all, there are other cognitive processes for that! Our working memory is at work, quite literally, all of the time. We use it when we drive a car (processing all of the sensory stimuli and integrating our behavior accordingly). Every time we cook a meal (remembering ingredients, following the recipe, remember to remove it from the stove in an appropriately timed fashion). We are putting our working memory to the test every time we have a basic conversation with a friend or stranger (recalling the listener’s name, topic maintenance or remembering and engaging with the relevant points of a discussion even when it is not your turn to talk). This mental, “Scratchpad” is never off duty!

While we all know the frustration of the stereotypical experience of walking into a room and forgetting why we are there, we humans really have quite diverse sets of working memory norms. Without knowing the struggle of another’s cognitive juggle, we can’t truly understand the effort requirement of a given task, no matter how “simple” it may seem.

Folks, remember, sometimes things can be really hard without being scholastically taxing. Recognize that one person’s easy is another person’s challenge. We can never really understand what it’s like to operate with less than we have. We are actually made to work together, our strengths and weaknesses balance out in the group.

God Bless

#neurodiversity #bekind #teamwork #optasia #ADHDawareness #autismdiffernces #aspielife

Goldstein, E.B.(2010), Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience. Wadsworth Publishing

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