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Working memory is a more recent extension of the concept of short-term memory. As techniques for studying memory have become more refined, it has become increasingly apparent that the original conception of short-term memory as a mere temporary receptacle for long-term memory is too simplistic. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no strict line of demarcation between memories and thoughts. In order to test some hypotheses that may provide a better understanding of this complex phenomenon, the concept of working memory has therefore been advanced.

Working memory is used to perform cognitive processes on the items that are temporarily stored in it. It would therefore be heavily involved in processes that require reasoning, such as reading, or writing, or performing computations. One typical example of the use of working memory is the task of repeating a list of items that has just been read to you, but in the reverse of their original order. Another good example is the task of simultaneous interpretation, where the interpreter must store information in one language while orally translating it into another.

Working memory appears to be composed of several independent systems, which would imply that we are not aware of all the information that is stored in it at any given time. For example, when you drive a car, you are performing several complex tasks simultaneously. It is unlikely that all of the various types of information involved are being handled by a single short-term memory system.

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