Thursday, November 25, 2010

Research byte: Relationship between working memory, memory span and fluid intelligence (Gf)

As per usual when I make a research byte/brief post, if anyone would like to read the original article, I can share via email---with the understanding that the article is provided in exchange for a brief guest post about it's contents. :) (contact me at if interested). Also, if figure/images are included in the post, they can usually be made larger by clicking on the image.

Pascale M.J. Engel de Abreu, Andrew R.A. Conway, Susan E. Gathercole. Working memory and fluid intelligence in young children. Intelligence 38 (2010) 552–561


The present study investigates how working memory and fluid intelligence are related in young children and how these links develop over time. The major aim is to determine which aspect of the working memory system—short-term storage or cognitive control—drives the relationship with fluid intelligence. A sample of 119 children was followed from kindergarten to second grade and completed multiple assessments of working memory, short-term memory, and fluid intelligence. The data showed that working memory, short-term memory, and fluid intelligence were highly related but separate constructs in young children. The results further showed that when the common variance between working memory and short-term memory was controlled, the residual working memory factor manifested significant links with fluid intelligence whereas the residual short-term memory factor did not. These findings suggest that in young children cognitive control mechanisms rather than the storage component of working memory span tasks are the source of their link with fluid intelligence.

The findings of this study are very similar to a series of SEM models I ran with indicators from the WJ III. The WJ III CHC-based models also showed that memory span (Gms-MS) was a causal factor for working memory (Gsm-MW) which in turn had a significant causal effect on g (and not just Gf). The primary difference was that these WJ III based analyses also included processing speed (Gs) as a causal influence on MS and MW but, consistent with the developmental cascade hypothesis Gs did not have a direct causal effect on Gf (it was mediated thru Gsm-MS-MW). In addition, these models included a much broader array of indicators of g, inclusive of Gc, Gv, Ga, Glr, and Gf.

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