Working Memory Load Influence on Control of Attention among Malaysian Undergraduates


The study investigates how working memory affects students' control of attention. A quasi-experimental research is conducted individually on 52 undergraduates of a public university in Malaysia, enrolled in various full-time undergraduate programmes, using Sternberg memory task and Task-switching tests. The reaction time is taken in milliseconds (ms) to differentiate the results for both tasks. The analysis revealed that when memory load was increased, reaction time also escalated. In the task-switching test, when one task was given at any one time, the reaction time was swift; however, when two or more tasks were integrated into one task, the reaction time would subsequently decelerated. Although the study also revealed that there is no significant difference between genders in terms of handling memory load and task-switching. However, a significant relationship was observed in performances between memory load and task-switching. It is also evidenced in the study that when memory load increases, it compounds the reaction time for task-switching. Results from the study inform course instructors to be aware of cognitive load when chunking information and assigning tasks to students, as their decisions on content quantity bore an effect on what would be remembered when students learn.



Cowan, N. (2014). Working memory underpins cognitive development, learning, and education.

Educational Psychology Review, 26(2), 197-223. DOI: 10.1007/s10648-013-9246-y

De Fockert, J. W., Rees, G., Frith, C. D., & Lavie, N. (2001). The role of working memory in visual selective

attention. Science, 291(5509), 1803-1806.

Hester, R., & Garavan, H. (2005). Working memory and executive function: The influence of content and

load on the control of attention. Memory & cognition, 33(2), 221-233.

Kane, M. J., & Engle, R. W. (2003). Working-memory capacity and the control of attention: the

contributions of goal neglect, response competition, and task set to Stroop interference. Journal of

Experimental Psychology: General, 132(1), 47.

Luders, E., Gaser, C., Narr, K. L., & Toga, A. W. (2009). Why sex matters: brain size independent

differences in gray matter distributions between men and women. Journal of Neuroscience, 29(45), 14265-

DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2261-09.2009

Mackie, M. A., Van Dam, N. T., & Fan, J. (2013). Cognitive control and attentional functions. Brain and

cognition, 82(3), 301-12. DOI:10.1016/j.bandc.2013.05.004

Oberauer, K. (2002). Access to information in working memory: exploring the focus of attention. Journal

of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28(3), 411. DOI: 10.1037/0278-7393

Solianik, R., Brazaitis, M., & Skurvydas, A. (2016). Sex-related differences in attention and memory.

Medicina, 52(6), 372-377. DOI: 10.1016/j.medici.2016.11.007

Sternberg, S. (1969). Memory-scanning: Mental processes revealed by reaction-time

experiments. American scientist, 57(4), 421-457.

Stoet, G. (2010). PsyToolkit: A software package for programming psychological experiments using Linux.

Behavior Research Methods, 42(4), 1096-1104. DOI: 10.3758/BRM.42.4.1096

How to Cite
Amin, K. E., & Mohamad, F. S. (2021). Working Memory Load Influence on Control of Attention among Malaysian Undergraduates. Journal of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, 7(1), 1-10.