Date of this Version
Published in Developmental Psychology 50:7 (2014), pp. 1999–2008; doi: 10.1037/a0036644
The present study addressed whether developmental improvement in working memory span task performance relies upon a growing ability to proactively plan response sequences during childhood. Two hundred thirteen children completed a working memory span task in which they used a touchscreen to reproduce orally presented sequences of animal names. Children were assessed longitudinally at 7 time points between 3 and 10 years of age. Twenty-one young adults also completed the same task. Proactive response sequence planning was assessed by comparing recall durations for the 1st item (preparatory interval) and subsequent items. At preschool age, the preparatory interval was generally shorter than subsequent item recall durations, whereas it was systematically longer during elementary school and in adults. Although children mostly approached the task reactively at preschool, they proactively planned response sequences with increasing efficiency from age 7 on, like adults. These findings clarify the nature of the changes in executive control that support working memory performance with age.