Decoding the Enigma: Benchmarking Humans and AIs on the Many Facets of Working Memory

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Datasets and Benchmarks Track

Bibtex Paper


Ankur Sikarwar, Mengmi Zhang


Working memory (WM), a fundamental cognitive process facilitating the temporary storage, integration, manipulation, and retrieval of information, plays a vital role in reasoning and decision-making tasks. Robust benchmark datasets that capture the multifaceted nature of WM are crucial for the effective development and evaluation of AI WM models. Here, we introduce a comprehensive Working Memory (WorM) benchmark dataset for this purpose. WorM comprises 10 tasks and a total of 1 million trials, assessing 4 functionalities, 3 domains, and 11 behavioral and neural characteristics of WM. We jointly trained and tested state-of-the-art recurrent neural networks and transformers on all these tasks. We also include human behavioral benchmarks as an upper bound for comparison. Our results suggest that AI models replicate some characteristics of WM in the brain, most notably primacy and recency effects, and neural clusters and correlates specialized for different domains and functionalities of WM. In the experiments, we also reveal some limitations in existing models to approximate human behavior. This dataset serves as a valuable resource for communities in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and AI, offering a standardized framework to compare and enhance WM models, investigate WM's neural underpinnings, and develop WM models with human-like capabilities. Our source code and data are available at: