Working memory is the kind of memory we use in everyday life to remember things such as phone numbers on a short-term basis and is different to our long-term memories of facts, knowledge and events in our life. Researchers at the University of Oregon looked into the effects of people's working-memory capacity on their attention and found that the more working memory they had the less easily they were distracted. The researchers monitored the participants' brain activity as they studied images on a computer screen, recognizing a shape with a missing component and then identifying the object as it moved to a different location. As the task went on the participants were increasingly distracted by split-second flashes of light. As the distractions mounted some participants were able to maintain their performance while others slipped. People who can focus more intently tend to have higher 'fluid intelligence'; they score more highly on achievement tests, do better in maths and tend to learn second languages more easily. The researchers are currently looking into whether easily-distracted people might be more creative and imaginative.
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