Verbal and spatial working memory in school-age children: developmental differences in susceptibility to interference

Dev Psychol. 1997 Mar;33(2):364-71. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.33.2.364.


The development of verbal and spatial working memory was investigated with an interference paradigm. Memory spans were obtained from 3 groups (8-, 10-, and 19-year-olds) under 6 different conditions: Two primary memory tasks (1 verbal, 1 spatial) were administered in isolation and in conjunction with 2 versions of a secondary task. The primary tasks required recalling a series of visually presented digits and recalling the locations of Xs in a series of visually presented grids. The secondary tasks required reporting the color of the stimuli as they were presented using either a verbal or a spatial response. Analyses revealed that all age groups showed domain-specific interference (i.e., interference by a secondary task from the same domain as the primary task), but only the 8-year-olds also showed nonspecific interference (i.e., interference by a secondary task from a domain different than the primary memory task), suggesting that at least some executive functions do not reach adult levels of efficiency until approximately age 10.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Space Perception*
  • Verbal Behavior*