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Department of Psychology


Publication details for Dr John Adams

Conlin, J.A., Gathercole, S.E. & Adams, J.W. (2005). Children’s working memory: Investigating performance limitations in complex span tasks. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 90(4): 303-317.

Author(s) from Durham


Three experiments investigated the roles of resource-sharing and intrinsic memory demands in complex working memory span performance in 7- and 9-year-olds. In Experiment 1, the processing complexity of arithmetic operations was varied under conditions in which processing times were equivalent. Memory span did not differ as a function of processing complexity. In Experiment 2, complex memory span was assessed under three conditions designed to vary both processing and intrinsic storage demands: mental arithmetic (significant attentional demands–requires storage), odd/even judgments (significant attentional demands–no storage required), and articulatory suppression (minimal attentional demands–no storage required). The highest memory spans were found in the articulatory suppression task. Span was at an intermediate level with arithmetic processing and was lowest for processing involving odd/even judgments. This difference in memory span for processing tasks involving arithmetic processing and odd/even judgments was eliminated in Experiment 3 when the pacing requirements of the arithmetic and odd/even processing tasks were equated. The results are consistent with the view that complex memory span performance is disrupted by processing activities that divert attentional resources from storage.