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The developmental influence of primary memory capacity on working memory and academic achievement

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  • Debbora Hall
  • Christopher Jarrold
  • John Towse
  • Amy L. Zarandi
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>08/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Developmental Psychology
Issue number8
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)1131-1147
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date15/06/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this study, we investigate the development of primary memory capacity among children. Children between the ages of 5-8 completed three novel tasks (split span, interleaved lists, and a modified free recall task) that measured primary memory by estimating the number of items in the focus of attention that could be spontaneously recalled in serial order. These tasks were calibrated against traditional measures of simple and complex span. Clear age- related changes in these primary memory estimates were observed. There were marked individual differences in primary memory capacity but each novel measure was predictive of simple span performance. Among older children, each measure shared variance with reading and mathematics performance, whereas for younger children the interleaved lists task was the strongest single predictor of academic ability. We argue that these novel tasks have considerable potential for the measurement of primary memory capacity and provide new, complementary ways of measuring the transient memory processes that predict academic performance. The interleaved lists task also shared features with interference control tasks, and our findings suggest that young children have a particular difficulty in resisting distraction, and that variance in the ability to resist distraction is also shared with measures of educational attainment.

Bibliographic note

'This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.'