As someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I have struggled with short-term memory issues for my entire life. However, since I was diagnosed later in life, I spent the bulk of my school-age years developing strategies to deal with what I thought were typical memory issues that everyone faced. By the time I entered university I knew that unless I physically wrote out my notes with a pen on paper, I would not remember them because it was too easy for me to type notes while my mind was ‘elsewhere’ not paying attention. If I needed to remember a list of things, I needed to write it somewhere I would see it repeatedly, like the back of my hand or the leg of my jeans; a list on paper in my pocket was quickly forgotten – out of sight out of mind.
The working memory model, developed by Baddeley and Hitch in 1974, focuses on the idea that working memory has a limited capacity to store information temporarily as it processes where the information is to go, such as into long-term memory to action (Baddeley, 2003). The information that is gathered falls into different subsets of the overall system, determined by the central executive: the phonological loop (spoken or written information) or visuospatial sketchpad (visual or spatial information) or the episodic buffer (a general category) (Mcleod, 2012).
Issues with short-term memory loss as related to ADHD and the working memory model comes from reported deficits in the ability to control attention and an oversaturation of information input into the central executive (Ortega et al., 2020; Mcleod, 2012). This results in information input being disorganized and not always making it to the long-term memory. Meaning, my central executive may not function in the manner in which Baddeley (2003) suggests it should and it can get easily overwhelmed, resulting in the interference of informational input and encoding. Issues with short-term memory are often considered to be as a result of decay or interference, though decay is difficult to prove due to issues with testability and overall understanding of the cause (Jonides et al., 2008).
It was explained to me that many people who have unknowingly existed with ADHD throughout their lives have developed both conscious and unconscious strategies to manage any cognitive processing issues they deal with. I mentioned writing things down as a conscious strategy that I have implemented over the years. Another strategy that I’ve used and continue to practice is repeating someone’s name back to them when being introduced. The act of saying their name out loud forces my attention to be focused on that singular piece of information, allowing for a better chance of it being appropriately encoded and therefore retrieved. Another option is to use a multisensory strategy when possible, allowing for auditory and visual input of the same information. Saying someone’s name out loud and reading it on a name tag for example. I’ve also asked people in the past how their name was spelled, as it allows for me to visualize the name, as well as hear it.
Baddeley, A. (2003). Working memory: Looking back and looking forward. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4(10), 829–839.
Jonides, J., Lewis, R. L., Nee, D. E., Lustig, C. A., Berman, M. G., & Moore, K. S. (2008). The mind and brain of short-term memory. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 193–224.
Mcleod, S. (2012). Working Memory Model. Working Memory Model. https://www.simplypsychology.org/working%20memory.html.
Ortega, R., López, V., Carrasco, X., Escobar, M. J., García, A. M., Parra, M. A., & Aboitiz, F. (2020). Neurocognitive mechanisms underlying working memory encoding and retrieval in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-13.