Age differences in visual working memory capacity: Not based on encoding limitations

Nelson Cowan, Angela M. Aubuchon, Amanda L. Gilchrist, Timothy J. Ricker, J. Scott Saults

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Why does visual working memory performance increase with age in childhood? One recent study (Cowan ., 2010b) ruled out the possibility that the basic cause is a tendency in young children to clutter working memory with less-relevant items (within a concurrent array, colored items presented in one of two shapes). The age differences in memory performance, however, theoretically could result from inadequate encoding of the briefly presented array items by younger children. We replicated the key part of the procedure in children 6-8 and 11-13years old and college students (total N=90), but with a much slower, sequential presentation of the items to ensure adequate encoding. We also required verbal responses during encoding to encourage or discourage labeling of item information. Although verbal labeling affected performance, age differences persisted across labeling conditions, further supporting the existence of a basic growth in capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1066-1074
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Age differences in visual working memory capacity: Not based on encoding limitations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this