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This study investigated the constraints underlying developmental improvements in complex working memory span performance among 120 children of between 6 and 10 years of age. Independent measures of processing efficiency, storage capacity, rehearsal speed, and basic speed of processing were assessed to determine their contribution to age-related variance in complex span. Results showed that developmental improvements in complex span were driven by 2 age-related but separable factors: 1 associated with general speed of processing and 1 associated with storage ability. In addition, there was an age-related contribution shared between working memory, processing speed, and storage ability that was important for higher level cognition. These results pose a challenge for models of complex span performance that emphasize the importance of processing speed alone.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Psychol

Publication Date





579 - 597


Age Factors, Aptitude, Association Learning, Child, Child Development, Cognition, Color Perception, Discrimination Learning, Female, Humans, Intelligence Tests, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Orientation, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Pitch Discrimination, Reaction Time, Retention, Psychology, Size Perception