On the interpretation of working memory span in adults
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Experimental research into children’s working memory span has shown that retention duration contributes substantially to span performance, while processing efficiency need not be related to concurrent memory load (Towse, Hitch, & Hutton, 1998). These findings have been used to argue for a model of working memory span that emphasizes time-based forgetting rather than the popular resource-sharing or tradeoff framework. The present paper considers whether adults perform working memory span tasks in a qualitatively different way. Data from reading span and operation span tasks show that adults’ performance can be distinguished from that of children, but also that a task-switching model of working memory span can explain some important aspects of performance.