School-aged children's awareness of their own working memory contents
Working memory researchers in psychology have long wondered about how the mind organizes the many different pieces of information that must be maintained at any one time in order that the individual may carry out daily tasks of cognition. This research has often focused on the capacity of information that an individual is capable of holding in mind at any one time. In order to obtain a better understanding of this capacity researchers have developed what are thought to be objective measures of estimating the number of items (k) an individual must have in mind based on their performance on some cognitive task. In the present research one such formula is used to obtain a typical estimate for a visual array task in which multiple colored squares must be held in mind for a short duration before the participant is asked about whether or not a single probe color was one of the colors that had just seen in the array. In addition, participants are asked to provide their own subjective estimates of the number of colors they believe themselves to have memorized. Several age groups were tested starting with children as young as 6. The results show that while all age groups appear to overestimate their own capacity when compared to the objective k estimate, younger children tend to do so to a greater degree. This effect is discussed as the result of the development of quicker processing with age, faster forgetting in young age, or simply a structural increase in the capacity irrespective of the prior two possibilities.