The complexities of complex span: explaining individual differences in working memory in children and adults

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two studies are presented that investigated the constraints underlying working memory performance in children and adults. In each case, independent measures of processing efficiency and storage capacity are assessed to determine their relative importance in predicting performance on complex span tasks,which measure working memory capacity. Results show that complex span performance was independently constrained by individual differences in domain-general processing efficiency and domain-specific storage capacity. Residual variance, which may reflect the ability to coordinate storage and processing, also predicted academic achievement. These results challenge the view that complex span taps a limited-capacity resource pool shared between processing and storage operations. Rather, they are consistent with a multiple-component model in which separate resource pools support the processing and storage functions of working memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-92
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception
  • Speech Perception
  • Visual Perception

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