Working Memory Models and Measures in Language and Bilingualism Research: Integrating Cognitive and Affective Perspectives

Zhisheng Wen, Markfeng Teng, Lili Han, Yong Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Although emotional or affective working memory (WM) is quite well established in general psychology, not much research has looked into its potential implications for the language sciences and bilingualism and second language acquisition (SLA) research until recently. To fill this gap, this paper aims to propose that WM has not just cognitive implications, but its affective dimension may also make complementary and unique contributions to language and bilingualism/SLA research. Towards this end, we first briefly synthesize the cognitive views of WM conceptions and assessment procedures in the current language sciences and bilingualism/SLA research. Next, we turn to discuss the theoretical models and assumptions of affective WM and explore their theoretical implications for bilingualism/SLA research based on emerging empirical evidence. Then, we propose a conceptual framework integrating cognitive and affective WM perspectives and further provide guidelines for designing affective WM span tasks that can be used in future affective WM–language research, focusing on the construction procedures of several emotion-based affective WM span tasks (e.g., the emotional reading span task, the emotional operation span task, and the emotional symmetry span task) as examples. Overall, we argue that affective feelings are also an integral part of the mental representations held in WM and future research in the language sciences and bilingualism/SLA should incorporate both cognitive and affective WM dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number729
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Affective working memory
  • Bilingualism
  • Emotion regulation
  • Language
  • N-back task
  • Working memory


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