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"Working Memory" is the Latest Volume from the Wenner-Gren Symposium Series

July 20, 2010

Current Anthropology Supplement Cover for Working MemoryThe Wenner-Gren Symposium Series is now being published through Current Anthropology. The series had been with Berg Publishers (Oxford) since 2002. The current venture permits specific articles from the symposia to be widely available through the internet and ensures that symposia content and discussions can reach a worldwide audience. The first issue Working Memory: Beyond Language and Symbolism (Eds.) Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge, was mailed out alongside the June 2010 issue of Current Anthropology. The volume is the outcome of the Wenner-Gren Symposia on Working Memory held at Fortaleza do Guincho, Cascais, Portugal from March 7–14, 2008.  (The Introduction to this volume written by the President of the Foundation, Leslie Aiello, can be downloaded here).

Next in the Symposium Series will be Engaged Anthropology: Dilemmas and Diversity. (Eds.) Setha Low and Sally Engle Merry, to be published in October 2010.

Working Memory: Beyond Language and Symbolism

Guest Edited by Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge
Volume 51, Supplement 1, June 2010

Working Memory: Beyond Language and Symbolism examines the role of working memory in human evolution and, more specifically, the hypothesis that a late enhancement of working memory capacity powered the evolution of the modern mind.. Working Memory is psychologist Alan Baddeley’s model of the cognitive processes that support higher level planning abilities, also known as executive functions.  Working memory itself is the ability to hold information in active attention and process it even in the face of distracting stimuli.  Almost forty years of psychological research have established working memory as perhaps the most well-researched and influential model of a component of human cognition, but its role in human evolution has only recently become a focus of attention.    Chapters in the volume address the nature of working memory itself, alternative models of higher level thinking, methodological issues in recognizing working memory in the paleoanthropological record, and initial attempts at documenting an evolutionary sequence.  The chapters in this Supplementary Issue make a strong case for the importance of Working Memory in the evolution of human cognition, although the volume reaches no general agreement on the timing of  its final enhancement.


Leslie C. Aiello  The Wenner-Gren Symposium Series: An Introduction by the President
Leslie C. Aiello Working Memory and the Evolution of Modern Thinking: Wenner-Gren Symposium Supplement
Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge Beyond Symbolism and Language: An Introduction to Supplement 1, Working Memory
Randall W. Engle Role of Working-Memory Ca