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Developmental Trends for Object and Spatial Working Memory: a Psychophysiological Analysis


  • The research reported in this article was supported by Dutch Science Foundation Grant NWO-SGW 222-0590. We would like to thank Drs. Silvia Bunge and Michiel Westenberg for helpful comments on a first draft of this article. The help of Gabriel van Uitert in collecting the data is greatly appreciated. Bert van Beek was instrumental in programming the object and spatial WM tasks and Dr. Mariette Huizinga is thanked for providing the Random Number Generation Task.

concerning this article should be addressed to Linda Van Leijenhorst, Department of Developmental Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK, Leiden, The Netherlands. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined developmental trends in object and spatial working memory (WM) using heart rate (HR) to provide an index of covert cognitive processes. Participants in 4 age groups (6–7, 9–10, 11–12, 18–26, n=20 each) performed object and spatial WM tasks, in which each trial was followed by feedback. Spatial WM task performance reached adult levels before object WM task performance. The differential developmental trends for object and spatial WM found in this study are taken to suggest that these WM components are separable. Negative performance feedback elicited HR slowing that was more pronounced for adults than for children. The development of performance monitoring as indexed by covert HR slowing following performance feedback contributes to WM performance.