Basic and applied research suggests that working memory (WM) supports situation awareness (SA) in dynamic environments. However, the relationship between WM and SA has not been well articulated. The present paper explores the potential role of WM in SA-based tasks by a) using a well-established WM model to conceptually link the two concepts and b) empirically testing this link. A dual-task paradigm was used where participants tracked an object against a moving background. Periodically, participants were required to either predict where the tracked object would be or to search for it. In addition to the tracking task participants concurrently performed one of four load tasks that separately taxed each of the four WM components (i.e. verbal, visual, spatial and central executive control). As predicted by the multi-component WM model (Baddeley, 1986; Logie, 1995) performing the SA tasks (prediction and search) relied on different WM subsystems. It is concluded that prediction involves the verbal subsystem whereas target search involves the spatial subsystem. The results support the role of WM in maintaining SA in a dynamic environment.
Johannsdottir, D. R.,
Herdman, D. M.,
& LeFevre, D.
(2005). The Role of Working Memory in Maintaining Situation Awareness. 2005 International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, 333-337.