, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 422-433

Working memory and language comprehension: A meta-analysis


This paper presents a meta-analysis of the data from 6,179 participants in 77 studies that investigated the association between working-memory capacity and language comprehension ability. A primary goal of the meta-analysis was to compare the predictive power of the measures of working memory developed by Daneman and Carpenter (1980) with the predictive power of other measures of working memory. The results of the meta-analysis support Daneman and Carpenter’s (1980) claim that measures that tap the combined processing and storage capacity of working memory (e.g., reading span, listening span) are better predictors of comprehension than are measures that tap only the storage capacity (e.g., word span, digit span). The meta-analysis also showed that math process plus storage measures of working memory are good predictors of comprehension. Thus, the superior predictive power of the process plus storage measures is not limited to measures that involve the manipulation of words and sentences.

This research was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to M. Daneman and P. M. Merikle. We thank Monica Davidson for her help with data search and categorization, Lee Sechrest for statistical consultation, and Akira Miyake for his useful comments and suggestions.