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Updating is the executive function (EF) previously found to most strongly relate to higher cognitive abilities such as reasoning. However, this relationship could be a methodological artifact: Measures of other EFs (i.e., inhibition and shifting) usually isolate the contribution of EF, whereas updating is measured by overall accuracy in working memory (WM) tasks involving updating. This updating accuracy-score conflates updating-specific individual differences (e.g., removal of outdated information) with variance in WM maintenance. Re-analyzing data (N = 111) from von Bastian et al. (2016), we separated updating-specific variance from WM maintenance variance. Updating contributed only 15% to individual differences in performance in the updating tasks, and it correlated neither with reasoning nor with independent WM measures reflecting storage and processing or relational integration. In contrast, the WM maintenance component of the updating task correlated with both abilities. These findings challenge the view that updating contributes to variance in higher cognitive abilities.
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