University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 24 May 2018: Do you want to be Sherlock Holmes? Visual working memory is the key

Start date: May 24, 2018 12:00 PM

End date: May 24, 2018 03:00 PM

Location: Mattilanniemi, Agora, Ag Beeta

When we talk about memory masters, some people may think of Sherlock Holmes, especially the BBC TV series Sherlock. Do you remember the first scene where Sherlock Holmes met Dr John Watson? Sherlock looked at John for one second, closed his eyes, and then remembered every detail and knew almost everything about John.

In fact, what is most admirable about Sherlock is not only his reasoning ability, but also his amazing memory ability. He can control the content of his memory to analyse and integrate it in order to make judgments. In cognitive science, this important memory system is called working memory. Unfortunately, most of us can only remember three to four visual items at the same time. In addition to the difference in the maximum number of memory items, another big difference between Sherlock and normal people is his ability to control memory content. The aim of this dissertation was to investigate how humans can control their memory.

Working memory capacity affects the ability to control memory content

During the course of his research, Chaoxiong Ye identified several factors that affect one’s ability to control memory. The most interesting results suggest that an individual's memory capacity largely affects the ability to control memory items. People who can remember more items also have a better ability to control their memory content.

Sufficient time to memorize enables controlling of memory content

Ye also found that normal people with high memory capacity cannot control their memory when the presenting time of visual information is too short. Effective memory control comes when visual information is presented for a sufficient amount of time.

This study has two important messages. First, you can control memory content only when you have enough time to observe it. If you want to imitate Sherlock in reasoning, do not rush to close your eyes and think. Instead, you should open your eyes and see. Second, a good working memory is the precondition for superior reasoning ability. The results of Chaoxiong Ye’s dissertation can provide, for instance, a new direction for future cognitive training to children.

Chaoxiong Ye, M.Ed., defends his doctoral dissertation in Cognitive Science "Visual working memory resource allocation mechanism in consolidation and maintenance phase".

Ye’s opponent will be Professor Robert Logie from the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh and the custos will be Professor Pertti Saariluoma, from the University of Jyväskylä.

The thesis defence will be held in English.

More information:

Chaoxiong Ye,, tel. +358 46 559 5558

Communications Officer Kati Valpe,, tel. +358 400 247 458

Personal history

Chaoxiong Ye received a Bachelor of Science from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou, China, in 2010. He then graduated as Master of Education from Minnan Normal University, Minnan, China. Since 2015, he has studied at the University of Jyväskylä as a doctoral student.

Publication data

The dissertation has been published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in Computing, number 280, 125 pages (+included articles), Jyväskylä, 2018, ISSN 1456-5390; 280), ISBN 978-951-39-7418-3 (nid.), ISBN 978-951-39-7419-0 (PDF), Permanent link to this publication:

More information

M.Ed Chaoxiong Ye
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