Redefining visual working memory: a cognitive-strategy, brain-region approach

Joel Pearson, Rebecca Keogh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to remember and manipulate visual information is pervasive and is associated with many cognitive abilities. Yet despite the importance of visual working memory (VWM), there is little consensus among researchers in the field as to which neural areas are necessary and sufficient and which models best describe its capacity. Here, we propose that an assumption that all people remember visual information in the same way has led to much contention and inconsistencies in the field. By accepting that there are multiple cognitive strategies and methods to perform a VWM task, we introduce an individual “precision” approach to the study of memory. We propose that VWM should be redefined, not by the type of stimuli used (e.g., visual) but rather by the specific mental processes (e.g., visual imagery, semantic, propositional, spatial) and the corresponding brain regions used to complete the mnemonic task. We further provide a short how-to guide for measuring different mnemonic strategies used for working memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-273
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • visual working memory
  • visual imagery
  • cognitive strategies
  • individual differences


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