The concept of working memory emphasizes the interrelationship between the transient retention of information and concurrent processing activity. Three experiments address this relationship in children between 8 and 17 years of age by examining forgetting when a processing task is interpolated between presentation and recall of the memory items. Unlike previous studies, delivery of interpolated stimuli was under computer control and responses to these stimuli were timed. There were consistent effects of the duration of the interpolated task, but no effects of either its difficulty or similarity to memory material and no qualitative developmental differences in task performance. The absence of an effect of difficulty provides no support for models of working memory in which limited capacity is shared between the dual functions of processing and storage, but is compatible with an alternative “task switching” account. However, task switching did not explain developmental differences in recall. Other aspects of the results suggest that there can be interactions between processing and storage but it is argued that these cannot be straightforwardly explained in terms of either task switching or resource sharing.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal,
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 82 (2), 2002, © ELSEVIER.