Advertisement

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 422–433 | Cite as

Working memory and language comprehension: A meta-analysis

  • Meredyth DanemanEmail author
  • Philip M. Merikle
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Digit Span Language Comprehension Verbal Process Storage Resource Reading Span 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Baddeley, A. D. (1983). Working memory.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society,302, 311–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. D. (1986).Working memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baddeley, A. D., &Hitch, G. J. (1974). Working memory. In G. A. Bower (Ed.),The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 47–90). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baddeley, A.[D.], Logie, R.[H.], Nimmo-Smith, I., &Brereton, N. (1985). Components of fluent reading.Journal of Memory & Language,24, 119–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baker, L. (1985). Working memory and comprehension: A replication.Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society,23, 28–30.Google Scholar
  6. Bock, K., &Miller, C. A. (1991). Broken agreement.Cognitive Psychology,23, 45–93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Byrd, M. (1993). Adult age differences in the ability to write prose passages.Educational Gerontology,19, 375–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calvo, M. G., Ramos, P. M., &Estevez, A. (1992). Test anxiety and comprehension efficiency: The role of prior knowledge and working memory deficits.Anxiety, Stress, & Coping,5, 125–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cantor, J., Engle, R. W., &Hamilton, G. (1991). Short-term memory, working memory, and verbal abilities: How do they relate?Intelligence,15, 229–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cariglia-Bull, T., &Pressley, M. (1990). Short-term memory differences between children predict imagery effects when sentences are read.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,49, 384–398.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Carpenter, P. A., &Just, M. A. (1989). The role of working memory in language comprehension. In D. Klahr & K. Kotovsky (Eds.),Handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 1075–1122). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Chen, H.-C. (1986). Effects of reading span and textual coherence on rapid-sequential reading.Memory & Cognition,14, 202–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cherry, K. E., &Park, D. C. (1993). Individual difference and contextual variables influence spatial memory in younger and older adults.Psychology & Aging,8, 517–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarkson-Smith, L., &Hartley, A. A. (1990). The game of bridge as an exercise in working memory and reasoning.Journals of Gerontology,45, P233-P238.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Daneman, M. (1982). The measurement of reading comprehension: How not to trade construct validity for predictive power.Intelligence,6, 331–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Daneman, M. (1987). Reading and working memory. In J. Beech & A. Colley (Eds.),Cognitive approaches to reading (pp. 57–86). Chichester, U.K.: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Daneman, M. (1988a). How reading braille is both like and unlike reading print.Memory & Cognition,16, 497–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Daneman, M. (1988b). Word knowledge and reading skill. In M. Daneman, G. E. MacKinnon, & T. G. Waller (Eds.),Reading research: Advances in theory and practice (Vol. 6, pp. 145–175). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Daneman, M. (1991). Working memory as a predictor of verbal fluency.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research,20, 445–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Daneman, M., &Carpenter, P. A. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,19, 450–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Daneman, M., &Carpenter, P. A. (1983). Individual differences in integrating information between and within sentences.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,9, 561–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Daneman, M., &Green, I. (1986). Individual differences in comprehending and producing words in context.Journal of Memory & Language,25, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Daneman, M.,Nemeth, S.,Stainton, M., &Huelsmann, K. (in press). Working memory as a predictor of reading achievement in orally educated hearing-impaired children.Volta Review.Google Scholar
  24. Daneman, M., &Tardif, T. (1987). Working memory and reading skill re-examined. In M. Coltheart (Ed.),Attention and performance XII (pp. 491–508). London: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  25. Das-Smaal, E. A., De Jong, P. F., &Koopmans, J. R. (1993). Working memory, attentional regulation, and the star counting test.Personality & Individual Differences,14, 815–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dempster, F. N. (1985). Short-term memory development in childhood and adolescence. In C. J. Brainerd & M. Pressley (Eds.),Basic processes in memory development: Progress in cognitive development research (pp. 209–248). New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  27. Dixon, P., LeFevre, J., &Twilley, L. C. (1988). Word knowledge and working memory as predictors of reading skill.Journal of Educational Psychology,80, 465–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Drevenstedt, J., &Bellezza, F. S. (1993). Memory for selfgenerated narration in the elderly.Psychology & Aging,8, 187–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Engle, R. W., Cantor, J., &Carullo, J. J. (1992). Individual differences in working memory and comprehension: A test of four hypotheses.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,18, 972–992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Engle, R. W., Carullo, J. J., &Collins, K. W. (1991). Individual differences in working memory for comprehension and following directions.Journal of Educational Research,84, 253–262.Google Scholar
  31. Engle, R. W., Nations, J. K., &Cantor, J. (1990). Is “working memory capacity” just another name for word knowledge?Journal of Educational Psychology,82, 799–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Farnham-Diggory, S., &Gregg, L. W. (1975). Short-term memory function in young readers.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,19, 279–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Frisk, V., &Milner, B. (1990). The relationship of working memory to the immediate recall of stories following unilateral temporal or frontal lobectomy.Neuropsychologia,28, 121–135.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Gathercole, S. E., &Baddeley, A. D. (1993).Working memory and language. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  35. Gaulin, C. A., &Campbell, T. F. (1994). Procedure for assessing verbal working memory in normal school-age children: Some preliminary data.Perceptual & Motor Skills,79, 55–64.Google Scholar
  36. Haenggi, D., &Perfetti, C. A. (1994). Processing components of college-level reading comprehension.Discourse Processes,17, 83–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hartley, J. (1986). Reader and text variables as determinants of discourse memory in adulthood.Psychology & Aging,1, 150–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hartley, J. (1988). Aging and individual differences in memory for written discourse. In L. L. Light & D. M. Burke (Eds.),Language, memory, and aging (pp. 36–57). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Hedges, L. V., &Olkin, I. (1985).Statistical methods for metaanalysis. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  40. Hess, T. M., &Tate, C. S. (1992). Direct and indirect assessments of memory for script-based narratives in young and older adults.Cognitive Development,7, 467–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Holland, C. A., &Rabbitt, P. M. A. (1990). Autobiographical and text recall in the elderly: An investigation of a processing resource deficit.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,42A, 441–470.Google Scholar
  42. Hunt, E. (1980). Intelligence as an information-processing concept.British Journal of Psychology,71, 449–474.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Hupert, M., Nef, F., &Maroy, M. (1992). Étude comparative du langage spontané d’adultes jeunes et agés.L’Année Psychologique,92, 511–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jackson, M. D., &McClelland, J. L. (1979). Processing determinants of reading speed.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,108, 151–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Jurden, F. H. (1995). Individual differences in working memory and complex cognition.Journal of Educational Psychology,87, 93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Jurden, F. H., &Reese, H. W. (1992). Educational context differences in prose recall in adulthood.Journal of Genetic Psychology,153, 275–291.Google Scholar
  47. Just, M. A., &Carpenter, P. A. (1980). A theory of reading: From eye fixations to comprehension.Psychological Review,4, 329–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Just, M. A., &Carpenter, P. A. (1992). A capacity theory of comprehension: Individual differences in working memory.Psychological Review,99, 122–149.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. King, J., &Just, M. A. (1991). Individual differences in syntactic processing: The role of working memory.Journal of Memory & Language,30, 580–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kintsch, W., &van Dijk, T. A. (1978). Toward a model of text comprehension.Psychological Review,85, 363–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kyllonen, P. C. (1993). Aptitude testing inspired by information processing: A test of the four-sources model.Journal of General Psychology,120, 375–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kyllonen, P. C., &Christal, R. E. (1990). Reasoning ability is (little more than) working-memory capacity?!Intelligence,14, 389–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. La Pointe, L. B., &Engle, R. W. (1990). Simple and complex word spans as measures of working memory capacity.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,16, 1118–1133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Leather, C. V., &Henry, L. A. (1994). Working memory span and phonological awareness tasks as predictors of early reading ability.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,58, 88–111.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Lee-Sammons, W. H., &Whitney, P. (1991). Reading perspectives and memory for text: An individual differences analysis.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,17, 1074–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lehrer, R., Guckenberg, T., &Lee, O. (1988). Comparative study of cognitive consequences of inquiry-based logo instruction.Journal of Educational Psychology,80, 543–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lehrer, R., &Littlefield, J. (1993). Relationships among cognitive components in logo learning and transfer.Journal of Educational Psychology,85, 317–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Light, L. L., &Anderson, P. A. (1985). Working-memory capacity, age, and memory for discourse.Journal of Gerontology,40, 737–747.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Logie, R. [H.], Baddeley, A. D., Mané, A. M., Donchin, E., &Sheptak, R. (1989). Working memory in the acquisition of complex cognitive skills.Acta Psychologica,71, 53–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Logie, R. H., Gilhooly, K. J., &Wynn, V. (1994). Counting on working memory in arithmetic problem solving.Memory & Cognition,22, 395–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lyxell, B., &Rönnberg, J. (1993). The effects of background noise and working memory capacity on speechreading performance.Scandinavian Audiology,22, 67–70.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Masson, M. E. J., &Miller, J. A. (1983). Working memory and individual differences in comprehension and memory of text.Journal of Educational Psychology,75, 314–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Miller, G. A., Galanter, E., &Pribram, K. H. (1960).Plans and the structure of behavior. New York: Holt.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Mitchell, D. C. (1982).The process of reading: A cognitive analysis of f luent reading and learning to read. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  65. Morrow, D. G., Leirer, V. O., &Altieri, P. A. (1992). Aging, expertise, and narrative processing.Psychology & Aging,7, 376–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Norman, S., Kemper, S., &Kynette, D. (1992). Adults’ reading comprehension: Effects of syntactic complexity and working memory.Journals of Gerontology,47, P258-P265.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Perfetti, C. A., &Goldman, S. R. (1976). Discourse memory and reading comprehension skill.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,15, 33–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Perfetti, C. A., &Lesgold, A. M. (1977). Discourse comprehension and sources of individual differences. In M. A. Just & P. A. Carpenter (Eds.),Cognitive processes in comprehension (pp. 141–183). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  69. Pratt, M. W., Boyes, C., Robins, S., &Manchester, J. (1989). Telling tales: Aging, working memory, and the narrative cohesion of story retellings.Developmental Psychology,25, 628–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Radvansky, G. A., Gerard, L. D., Zacks, R. T., &Hasher, L. (1990). Younger and older adults’ use of mental models as representations for text materials.Psychology & Aging,5, 209–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rankin, J. L. (1993). Information-processing differences of collegeage readers differing in reading comprehension and speed.Journal of Reading Behavior,25, 261–278.Google Scholar
  72. Rizzo, N. D. (1939). Studies in visual and auditory memory span with special reference to reading disability.Journal of Experimental Education,8, 208–244.Google Scholar
  73. Rönnberg, J., Arlinger, S., Lyxell, B., &Kinnefors, C. (1989). Visual evoked potentials: Relative to adult speechreading and cognitive functions.Journal of Speech & Hearing Research,32, 725–735.Google Scholar
  74. Rosenthal, R. (1991).Meta-analytic procedures for social research (rev. ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  75. Salthouse, T. A., &Babcock, R. L. (1991). Decomposing adult age differences in working memory.Developmental Psychology,27, 763–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Salthouse, T. A., &Kersten, A. W. (1993). Decomposing adult age differences in symbol arithmetic.Memory & Cognition,21, 699–710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Salthouse, T. A., Mitchell, D. R. D., Skovronek, E., &Babcock, R. L. (1989). Effects of adult age and working memory on reasoning and spatial abilities.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,15, 507–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Shah, P., &Miyake, A. (1996). The separability of working memory resources for spatial thinking and language processing: An individual differences approach.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,125, 4–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Shute, V. J. (1991). Who is likely to acquire programming skills?Journal of Educational Computing Research,7, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Singer, M., Andrusiak, P., Reisdorf, P., &Black, N. L. (1992). Individual differences in bridging inference processes.Memory & Cognition,20, 539–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Spearman, C. (1904). The proof and measurement of association between two things.American Journal of Psychology,15, 72–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Staver, J. R., &Jacks, T. (1988). The influence of cognitive reasoning level, cognitive restructuring ability, disembedding ability, working memory capacity, and prior knowledge on students’ performance on balancing equations by inspection.Journal of Research in Science Teaching,25, 763–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Stine, E. A. L., Lachman, M. E., &Wingfield, A. (1993). The roles of perceived and actual control in memory for spoken language.Educational Gerontology,19, 331–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Stine, E. [A.] L., &Wingfield, A. (1987). Process and strategy in memory for speech among younger and older adults.Psychology & Aging,2, 272–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Stine, E. A. L., Wingfield, A., &Myers, S. D. (1990). Age differences in processing information from television news: The effects of bisensory augmentation.Journals of Gerontology,45, P1-P8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. Swanson, H. L. (1992). Generality and modifiability of working memory among skilled and less skilled readers.Journal of Educational Psychology,84, 473–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Swanson, H. L. (1993). Working memory in learning disability subgroups.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,56, 87–114.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  88. Swanson, H. L., Cochran, K. F., &Ewers, C. A. (1989). Working memory in skilled and less skilled readers.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology,17, 145–156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  89. Taylor, J. L., Yesavage, J. A., Morrow, D. G., Dolhert, N., Brooks, J. O., &Poon, L. W. (1994). The effects of information load and speech rate on younger and older aircraft pilots’ ability to execute simulated air-traffic controller instructions.Journals of Gerontology,49, P191-P200.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. Tirre, W. C., &Pena, C. M. (1992). Investigation of functional working memory in the reading span test.Journal of Educational Psychology,84, 462–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Tompkins, C. A., Bloise, C. G. R., Timko, M. L., &Baumgaertner, A. (1994). Working memory and inference revision in brain-damaged and normally aging adults.Journal of Speech & Hearing Research,37, 896–912.Google Scholar
  92. Tun, P. A., Wingfield, A., &Stine, E. A. L. (1991). Speechprocessing capacity in young and older adults: A dual-task study.Psychology & Aging,6, 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Turner, M. L., &Engle, R. W. (1989). Is working memory capacity task dependent?Journal of Memory & Language,28, 127–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Wingfield, A., Stine, E. A. L., Lahar, C. J., &Aberdeen, J. S. (1988). Does the capacity of working memory change with age?Experimental Aging Research,14, 103–107.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada
  2. 2.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations