Working Memory, Attention Control, and the N-Back Task: A Question of Construct Validity

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael J. Kane, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The n-back task requires participants to decide whether each stimulus in a sequence matches the one that appeared n items ago. Although n-back has become a standard ?executive? working memory (WM) measure in cognitive neuroscience, it has been subjected to few behavioral tests of construct validity. A combined experimental–correlational study tested the attention-control demands of verbal 2- and 3-back tasks by presenting n — 1 ?lure? foils. Lures elicited more false alarms than control foils in both 2- and 3-back tasks, and lures caused more misses to targets that immediately followed them compared with control targets, but only in 3-back tasks. N-back thus challenges control over familiarity-based responding. Participants also completed a verbal WM span task (operation span task) and a marker test of general fluid intelligence (Gf; Ravens Advanced Progressive Matrices Test; J. C. Raven, J. E. Raven, & J. H. Court, 1998). N-back and WM span correlated weakly, suggesting they do not reflect primarily a single construct; moreover, both accounted for independent variance in Gf. N-back has face validity as a WM task, but it does not demonstrate convergent validity with at least 1 established WM measure.

Additional Information

Kane, M.J., Conway, A.R.A., Miura, T.K., & Colflesh, G.J.H. (2007). Working memory, attention control, and the n-back task: A question of construct validity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33, 615-622.
Language: English
Date: 2007
Working memory, Memory span, N-back, Intelligence, Individual differences

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