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Working memory in children assessed with serial chaining and Simon tasks

Parrish, Audrey E., Perdue, Bonnie M., Kelly, Andrew J., Beran, Michael J.
Behavioural processes 2018 v.157 pp. 528-531
color, humans, memory, planning, preschool children
In the serial chaining task, participants are required to produce a sequence of responses to stimuli in the correct order, and sometimes must determine the sequence at trial outset if stimuli are masked after the first response is made. Similarly, the Simon memory span task presents a participant with a sequence of colors, and the participant must recreate the sequence after the full series is shown. In efforts to directly link the comparative literature on sequential planning behavior and working memory span with the developmental literature, we presented preschool children with the serial chaining task using masked Arabic numerals (N = 44) and the Simon memory span task (N = 65). Older children outperformed younger children in each task, sequencing a longer string of numbers in the serial chaining task and remembering a greater number of items in the Simon task. Controlling for the role of age, there was a significant positive relationship between task scores. These results highlight the emergence of working memory skills that might underlie planning capacities in children using a task developed for nonhuman animals, and the results indicate that improvement in general executive functions could be measured using either or both of these tasks among human children and nonhuman species.