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Many varieties of working memory have been linked to fluid intelligence. In Duncan et al. (Journal of Experimental Psychology:General 137:131-148, 2008), we described limited working memory for new task rules: When rules are complex, some may fail in their control of behavior, though they are often still available for explicit recall. Unlike other kinds of working memory, load is determined in this case not by real-time performance demands, but by the total complexity of the task instructions. Here, we show that the correlation with fluid intelligence is stronger for this aspect of working memory than for several other, more traditional varieties-including simple and complex spans and a test of visual short-term memory. Any task, we propose, requires construction of a mental control program that aids in segregating and assembling multiple task parts and their controlling rules. Fluid intelligence is linked closely to the efficiency of constructing such programs, especially when behavior is complex and novel.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychon Bull Rev

Publication Date





864 - 870


Adult, Aged, Attention, Executive Function, Humans, Intelligence, Memory, Short-Term, Mental Recall, Middle Aged