Effects of the Information Output Modality on the Effectiveness of Working Memory in Young School-Age Children, Adolescents, and Adults: Ontogenetic Analysis

Our previous study [Absatova and Kurgansky, 2016] using a specially developed model for the experimental investigation of working memory (WM), in which the information output task was varied using unchanging stimulus material, showed that the processes of retaining and recoding particular visual information in WM differed depending on the output modality, i.e., the activity in which this information was subsequently used. In the present study, we used an ontogenetic approach to confirm the previously identified relationship between the formation of the internal representation of WM and the nature of the activity in which the retained information was used. Young school-age children, adolescents, and adults were asked to remember a sequence of abstract visual elements and reproduce them after a specified time delay by one of two methods: (1) copying by hand onto a sheet of paper and (2) associating them with letters and saying them out loud. The age-related dynamics of information reproduction accuracy identified by analysis of reproduction errors in the task of copying by hand onto a sheet of paper provided evidence of gradual improvement in visuospatial working memory during the period from age 7–8 years to age 14–15 years, with achievement of a definitive level of task performance in the oldest adolescent age group. The age dynamics of information reproduction accuracy during retention and subsequent speaking of stimulus information as visual element-associated letters provided evidence that improvement in the verbal component of working memory took longer than improvement of the visuospatial component. Apart from the heterochronous maturation of verbal and visuospatial WM, all age groups showed a relationship between different types of error and the output modality for information retained in working memory. The results of the present ontogenetic study provide evidence supporting the existence of a relationship between the internal representation of information in working memory and the nature of the activity in which this information is subsequently used.

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Correspondence to R. I. Machinskaya.

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Translated from Zhurnal Vysshei Nervnoi Deyatel’nosti imeni I. P. Pavlova, Vol. 68, No. 3, pp. 349–365, May–June, 2018.

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Absatova, K.A., Machinskaya, R.I. & Frolova, K.A. Effects of the Information Output Modality on the Effectiveness of Working Memory in Young School-Age Children, Adolescents, and Adults: Ontogenetic Analysis. Neurosci Behav Physi 49, 863–874 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11055-019-00813-0

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Keywords

  • working memory
  • representation of information
  • information output modality
  • copying by hand
  • reproduction aloud
  • young school-age children
  • adolescents
  • adults