No Clear Support for Differential Influences of Visuospatial and Phonological Resources on Mental Arithmetic: A Registered Report


  • Edward H. Chen
  • Drew H. Bailey
  • Susanne M. Jaeggi


Several working memory processes have been hypothesized to influence different arithmetic operations. Working memory has been compartmentalized into a number of different sub-processes, such as phonological memory and visuospatial memory that are believed to have unique contributions to the performance of two distinct arithmetic operations: multiplication and subtraction. A previous dual task experiment produced these effects, but subsequent experiments have yielded inconsistent results. Because the reasons for these inconsistencies are not immediately apparent, the current study systematically reviewed these subsequent attempts and attempted to replicate this effect in a within-subjects dual task experiment using tasks developed from prior work across a number of different subsamples. In contrast to the original finding, we observed no differential impact of specific working memory secondary tasks by arithmetic operation in any of our analyses. However, our analyses do not entirely rule out the possibility of differential effects of working memory tasks. Our findings suggest that the working memory facet by arithmetic operation interactions observed in previous work may be idiosyncratic in nature and difficult to predict a priori in subsequent experiments.