Mapping the developmental constraints on working memory span performance

Donna M Bayliss, Christopher Jarrold, Alan Baddeley, Deborah M Gunn, Eleanor Leigh

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This study investigated the constraints underlying developmental improvements in complex working memory span performance among 120 children of between 6 and 10 years of age. Independent measures of processing efficiency, storage capacity, rehearsal speed, and basic speed of processing were assessed to determine their contribution to age-related variance in complex span. Results showed that developmental improvements in complex span were driven by 2 age-related but separable factors: 1 associated with general speed of processing and 1 associated with storage ability. In addition, there was an age-related contribution shared between working memory, processing speed, and storage ability that was important for higher level cognition. These results pose a challenge for models of complex span performance that emphasize the importance of processing speed alone.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-97
Number of pages19
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Age Factors
  • Aptitude
  • Association Learning
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Cognition
  • Color Perception
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Pitch Discrimination
  • Reaction Time
  • Retention (Psychology)
  • Size Perception

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