Age-related differentiation in verbal and visuo-spatial working memory processing in childhood

Frances Buttelmann, Tanja Könen, Lauren Hadley, Julie-Anne Meaney, Bonnie Auyeung, Candice Morey, Nicolas Chevalier, Julia Karbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Working memory (WM), a key feature of the cognitive system, allows for maintaining and processing information simultaneously and in a controlled manner. WM processing continuously develops across childhood, with significant increases both in verbal and visuo-spatial WM.Verbal and visuospatial WM may show different developmental trajectories, as verbal (but not visuospatial) WM relies on internal verbal rehearsal, which is less developed in younger children. We examined complex VWM and VSWM performance in 125 younger (age 4 to 6years) and 101 older (age 8 to10 years) children. Latent multi-group modeling showed that (1)older children performed better on both verbal and visuospatial WM span tasks than younger children, (2) both age groups performed better on verbal than visuospatial WM, and (3) a model with two factors representing verbal and visuospatial WM fit the data better than a one-factor model. Importantly, the correlation between the two factors was significantly higher in youngert han in older children, suggesting an age-related differentiation of verbal and spatial WM processing in middle childhood. Age-related differentiation is an important characteristic of cognitive functioning and thus the findings contribute to our general understanding of WM processing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Research
Early online date12 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jul 2019


  • working memory
  • early childhood
  • middle childhood
  • age-differences
  • domain differentiation


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