Working Memory in Children: Tracing Age Differences and Special Educational Needs to Parameters of a Formal Model

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Abstract

Parameters of a formal working-memory model were estimated for verbal and spatial memory updating of children. The model proposes interference though feature overwriting and through confusion of whole elements as the primary cause of working-memory capacity limits. We tested 2 age groups each containing 1 group of normal intelligence and 1 deficit group. For young children the deficit was developmental dyslexia; for older children it was a general learning difficulty. The interference model predicts less interference through overwriting but more through confusion of whole elements for the dyslexic children than for their age-matched controls. Older children exhibited less interference through confusion of whole elements and a higher processing rate than young children, but general learning difficulty was associated with slower processing than in the age-matched control group. Furthermore, the difference between verbal and spatial updating mapped onto several meaningful dissociations of model parameters.

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