Conditional reasoning and the Tower of Hanoi: The role of spatial and verbal working memory

Simon J. Handley*, A. Capon, C. Copp, C. Harper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports a study that investigated the relationships between verbal and spatial measures of working memory capacity and performance on the Tower of Hanoi and a conditional reasoning task. Four working memory measures were included, a simple word span, a simple spatial span, a complex verbal span and a complex spatial span. The participants were 70 undergraduate students. Solution time on the Tower of Hanoi task correlated highly with both measures of spatial memory capacity, but not with the verbal working memory spans. In contrast, logical performance on the conditional reasoning task correlated highly with the complex verbal working memory span, but not with the spatial spans. A confirmatory factor analysis of the data elicited a best-fit model comprising a correlated spatial and verbal factor. The results are interpreted in the context of recent work that suggests a dissociation between spatial and verbal resources at the level of the central executive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-518
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


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