I received a very nice email this morning from Joshua Hartshorne, a graduate student at Harvard. Back in March 2007, Joshua had asked if we could help get the word out on his research, which is conducted online, and a number of Cal Poly students participated. Joshua had good news to tell–his research has just been published by PLoS One. You can read the entire article here [1].

Josh has written a description of his study on his own blog. He summarizes his results as follows:

The short version of the results of the published paper is that proactive interference does decrease measured capacity for visual working memory, but not by very much (about 15%). So it cannot account for the differences between visual and verbal working memory. The search must go on.

If you need a little background for understanding Josh’s issues, his blog features more discussion here and here. If you want to check out what else the lab has going, you can read more about their ongoing and upcoming projects here.

I’m not sure exactly what Josh is saying here with the spider photo, but I’m pretty sure most people’s visual working memory would remember this! 

What I really like about Josh’s work is that it allows students some insight into the process. As more and more young investigators share their processes, not just the end results, research becomes a lot more accessible and less mysterious to newer students. 

Because some of my students did participate in the PLoS One study, I also appreciate Josh’s update. All informed consent forms say something about “if you would like to see the results of this study,” but how many times does that actually happen? Now those of you who participated can actually read the paper and see the end results of your participation.

Thanks, Josh, and good luck with your future research! 

1.  Hartshorne, J.K. (2008). Visual working memory capacity and proactive interference. PLoS One, 3(7):  e2716. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002716