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J Exp Child Psychol. 2012 Apr;111(4):695-707. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2011.10.007. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

The development of visual working memory capacity during early childhood.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA. simmering@wisc.edu

Abstract

The change detection task has been used in dozens of studies with adults to measure visual working memory capacity. Two studies have recently tested children in this task, suggesting a gradual increase in capacity from 5 years to adulthood. These results contrast with findings from an infant looking paradigm suggesting that capacity reaches adult-like levels within the first year. The current study adapted the change detection task for use with children younger than 5 years to test whether the standard version of the task was too difficult and may have underestimated children's capacity. Results showed that 3- and 4-year-olds could successfully complete this modified task and that capacity increased roughly linearly, from 2 or 3 items during this period to 3 or 4 items between 5 and 7 years. Furthermore, performance did not differ significantly between the modified version and a replication of the standard version with 5- and 7-year-olds. Thus, there is no evidence that previous research with the change detection task underestimated children's capacity. Further research is needed to understand how performance relates across the infant looking task and change detection to provide a more complete picture of visual working memory capacity over development.

PMID:
22099167
DOI:
10.1016/j.jecp.2011.10.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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