Visual working memory in young children

Graham J. Hitch*, Sebastian Halliday, Alma Schaafstal, Jan Maarten C Schraagen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

186 Citations (Scopus)
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Five experiments investigated immediate memory for drawings of familiar objects in children of different ages. The aims were to demonstrate younger children's greater dependence on visual working memory and to explore the nature of this memory system. Experiment 1 showed that visual similarity of drawings impaired recall in young (5-year-old) children but not in older (10-year-old) children. Experiment 2 showed that younger and older children were affected in contrasting ways when the temporal order of recall was manipulated. Experiment 3 explored a recency effect found in backward recall and investigated its sensitivity to the presentation modality of materials used to produce retroactive interference (RI). For younger children, recency was reduced by visual but not by auditory-verbal RI; for older children, recency was more sensitive to auditoryverbal RI. Experiment 4 confirmed the effect of visual RI on visual recency in young children and showed that the same RI had little effect on their recall of spoken words. These results confirm younger children's dependence on visual working memory. A final experiment showed that the effects of visual similarity and visual RI are additive, suggesting that they reflect different modes of accessing stored visuospatial information. Implications of these findings for developmental issues and for the nature of visual working memory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-132
Number of pages13
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Serial position
  • Recency effect
  • Visual working memory
  • Familiar object
  • Visual similarity


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