Explaining the Many Varieties of Working Memory Variation: Dual Mechanisms of Cognitive Control

Todd S. Braver, Jeremy R. Gray, Gregory C. Burgess

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

41 Scopus citations


This chapter shows how all working memory (WM) theorists agree that control processes are a critical component of WM function. The general theoretical framework is the dual mechanisms of control (DMC): proactive control and reactive control. They can be differentiated on the basis of their information-processing characteristics, computational properties, temporal dynamics, and underlying neural systems. Regardless of the source of WM variation, the proximal mechanisms of variation remain the same and have the same impact on brain activity and behavior. Thus, the DMC framework provides a unifying account that has the potential to synthesize and integrate a large body of literatures on WM function. By recognizing that there are multiple alternative routes to cognitive control, investigators may be in a better position to explore and investigate the complexity of empirical findings.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVariation in Working Memory
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199847297
ISBN (Print)9780195168648
StatePublished - Mar 22 2012


  • Brain activity
  • DMC framework
  • Memory theorists
  • Proactive control
  • Proximal mechanisms
  • Reactive control
  • Temporal dynamics


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