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Working Memory and Cognitive Reasoning (WS 2019/20)

Organizer: Marco Ragni
Assistants: Hannah Dames, Nicolas Riesterer


The ability to reason logically is an important cognitive skill we use to draw inferences from information with which we are presented. Sometimes, drawing such a conclusion is effortful and requires many cognitive resources. But how do we hold given information temporarily available in order to manipulate and reason about given information? The system assumed to reflect our ability to maintain and manipulate information is called working memory: a core feature of our cognition.

The goal of this seminar is to examine the working memory - reasoning relationship by investigating whether individual differences in working memory predict individual differences in reasoning tasks. If working memory is the source of the computational limitation in the ability to reason when complex mental representations are required, then individuals with greater working memory capacity should show a better reasoning performance. Possibly, however, differences in working memory capacity lead to different reasoning strategies and thus, different response patterns.

To investigate this relationship, the seminar will apply machine learning methods and state-of-the-art cognitive models of reasoning using human generated data (working memory and reasoning tasks).

Background Literature

  • Khemlani, S., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2012). Theories of the syllogism: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138(3), 427.
  • Wilhelm, O., Hildebrandt, A. H., & Oberauer, K. (2013). What is working memory capacity, and how can we measure it?. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 433.
Reasoning and Working-Memory
  • Süß, H. M., Oberauer, K., Wittmann, W. W., Wilhelm, O., & Schulze, R. (2002). Working-memory capacity explains reasoning ability—and a little bit more. Intelligence, 30(3), 261-288.

Important Dates

  • October 21st, 12:00-13:00, building 052, room 02-017: Introductory meeting
  • October 30th: HisInOne registration deadline
  • November 11th, room SR 00-034, Geb. 051 & time 16:00: Kick-off meeting
  • December 3rd, room: SR 02-017, Geb. 052 & time: 8:00 - 9:30: midterm presentation
  • January 2nd, 23:59: Deadline for final models & written report
  • January 10th-11th, 10:00-17:00, room SR 00-031, Geb. 051: Blockseminary


  • Presentation of your preliminary & final results
    • Theoretical and computational foundation
    • Predictive performance
    • Ideas for improvement
  • Written report of your work (~6 pages, CogSci format)
    • Introduction/Motivation
    • Theoretical Foundation
    • Method/Model
    • Results
    • Conclusion/Discussion