Cognition and Memory

Part of the Autism and Child Psychopathology Series book series (ACPS)


This book chapter provides a summary and overview of current research from the field of cognitive psychology regarding the development of cognition and memory in children. Functional improvements in attention and strategy use lead to many improvements in cognitive abilities but do not explain the whole picture of developmental change in typically developing children. Important improvements in working memory abilities, including the connections to memories within long-term memory, and the ease of retrieving those memories, play an additionally important role. We discuss research conducted with both typically developing and atypically developing children, to promote a better understanding of cognitive development across the field of psychology broadly. Finally, we present conclusions regarding the future directions of research in these areas, as well as the need for careful research in the area of working memory training.


Cognitive development Cognition Memory Working memory Long-term memory Attention Children 


  1. Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M. (2016). Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In R. J. Sternberg, S. T. Fiske, D. J. Foss, R. J. Sternberg, S. T. Fiske, & D. J. Foss (Eds.), Scientists making a difference: One hundred eminent behavioral and brain scientists talk about their most important contributions (pp. 115–118). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. (2000). The episodic buffer: A new component of working memory? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 417–423. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker-Ward, L., Ornstein, P. A., & Holden, D. J. (1984). The expression of memorization in early childhood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 37, 555–575.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Barr, R., Walker, J., Gross, J., & Hayne, H. (2014). Age-related changes in spreading activation during infancy. Child Development, 85, 549–563. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bauer, P. J., Blue, S. N., Xu, A., & Esposito, A. G. (2016). Productive extension of semantic memory in school-aged children: Relations with reading comprehension and deployment of cognitive resources. Developmental Psychology, 52, 1024–1037. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Belmont, J. M., & Butterfield, E. C. (1971). Learning strategies as determinants of memory deficiencies. Cognitive Psychology, 2, 411–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Case, R., Kurland, D. M., & Goldberg, J. (1982). Operational efficiency and the growth of short-term memory span. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 33(3), 386–404. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chi, M. H., & VanLehn, K. A. (2012). Seeing deep structure from the interactions of surface features. Educational Psychologist, 47, 177–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clerc, J., Miller, P. H., & Cosnefroy, L. (2014). Young children’s transfer of strategies: Utilization deficiencies, executive function, and metacognition. Developmental Review, 34(4), 378–393. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins, A. M., & Quillian, M. R. (1969). Retrieval time from semantic memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 8, 240–247. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cowan, N. (2016a). Working memory capacity. New York: Routledge. [Original edition 2005]: Psychology Press and Routledge Classic Edition.Google Scholar
  12. Cowan, N. (2016b). Working memory maturation: Can we get at the essence of cognitive growth? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11, 239–264.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Cowan, N., Elliott, E. M., Saults, J. S., Morey, C. C., Mattox, S., Hismjatullina, A., & Conway, A. A. (2005). On the capacity of attention: Its estimation and its role in working memory and cognitive aptitudes. Cognitive Psychology, 51(1), 42–100. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Cowan, N., Ricker, T. J., Clark, K. M., Hinrichs, G. A., & Glass, B. A. (2015). Knowledge cannot explain the developmental growth of working memory capacity. Developmental Science, 18, 132–145.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Danielsson, H., Henry, L., Messer, D., Carney, D. P., & Rönnberg, J. (2016). Developmental delays in phonological recoding among children and adolescents with down syndrome and Williams syndrome. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 55, 64–76.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. de Voogd, E. L., Wiers, R. W., Zwitser, R. J., & Salemink, E. (2016). Emotional working memory training as an online intervention for adolescent anxiety and depression: A randomised controlled trial. Australian Journal of Psychology, 68, 228–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elliott, E. M. (2002). The irrelevant-speech effect and children: Theoretical implications of developmental change. Memory & Cognition, 30, 478–487. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Elliott, E. M., Bhagat, S. P., & Lynn, S. D. (2007). Can children with (central) auditory processing disorders ignore irrelevant sounds? Research in Developmental Disabilities, 28, 506–517.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Elliott, E. M., & Briganti, A. M. (2012). Investigating the role of attentional processes in the irrelevant speech effect. Acta Psychologica, 140, 64–74.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Elliott, E. M., Hughes, R. W., Briganti, A., Joseph, T. N., Marsh, J. E., & Macken, B. (2016). Distraction in verbal short-term memory: Insights from developmental differences. Journal of Memory and Language, 88, 39–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Engle, R. W., Kane, M. J. (2004). Executive attention, working memory capacity, and a two-factor theory of cognitive control. In B. H. Ross, & B. H. Ross (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory, 44 New York: Academic Press. (pp. 145–199). doi:
  22. Enns, J. T., & Akhtar, N. (1989). A developmental study of filtering invisual attention. Child Development, 60, 1188–1199.Google Scholar
  23. Flavell, J. H., Beach, D. R., & Chinsky, J. M. (1966). Spontaneous verbal rehearsal in a memory task as a function of age. Child Development, 37, 283–299. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Flavell, J. H., Friedrichs, A. G., & Hoyt, J. D. (1970). Developmental changes in memorization processes. Cognitive Psychology, 1, 324–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foster, J. L., Shipstead, Z., Harrison, T. L., Hicks, K. L., Redick, T. S., & Engle, R. W. (2015). Shortened complex span tasks can reliably measure working memory capacity. Memory & Cognition, 43(2), 226–236. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gathercole, S. E., Brown, L., & Pickering, S. J. (2003). Working memory assessments at school entry as longitudinal predictors of National Curriculum attainment levels. Educational and Child Psychology, 20, 109–122.Google Scholar
  27. Gathercole, S. E., Lamont, E., & Alloway, T. P. (2006). Working memory in the classroom. In S. Pickering (Ed.), Working memory and education (pp. 219–240). London: Elsevier Academic Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gerhardstein, P., & Rovee-Collier, C. (2002). The development of visual search in infants and very young children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 81(2), 194–215. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Hitch, G. J., Halliday, M. S., Schaafstal, A. M., & Heffernan, T. M. (1991). Speech, ‘inner speech’, and the development of short-term memory: Effects of picture-labelling on recall. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 51, 220–234. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Hitch, G. J., Towse, J. N., & Hutton, U. (2001). What limits children’s working memory span? Theoretical accounts and applications for scholastic development. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 184–198. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jarrold, C. (2017). Working out how working memory works: Evidence from typical and atypical development. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 70(9), 1747–1767.
  32. Jarrold, C., & Citroën, R. (2013). Reevaluating key evidence for the development of rehearsal: Phonological similarity effects in children are subject to proportional scaling artifacts. Developmental Psychology, 49, 837–847. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Kail, R., & Hall, L. K. (1999). Sources of developmental change in children’s word-problem performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 660–668. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kane, M. J., & Engle, R. W. (2003). Working-memory capacity and the control of attention: The contributions of goal neglect, response competition, and task set to Stroop interference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 132, 47–70. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Keeney, T. J., Cannizzo, S. R., & Flavell, J. H. (1967). Spontaneous and induced verbal rehearsal in a recall task. Child Development, 38, 953–966. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kuhn, J. (2016). Controlled attention and storage: An investigation of the relationship between working memory, short-term memory, scope of attention, and intelligence in children. Learning and Individual Differences, 52, 167–177. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Loftus, E. F. (1973). Activation of semantic memory. The American Journal of Psychology, 86, 331–337. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lubow, R. E., Toren, P., Laor, N., & Kaplan, O. (2000). The effects of target and distractor familiarity on visual search in anxious children: Latent inhibition and novel pop-out. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 14, 41–56.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. MacLeod, C. M., & MacDonald, P. A. (2000). Interdimensional interference in the Stroop effect: Uncovering the cognitive and neural anatomy of attention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 383–391.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Majerus, S., & Cowan, N. (2016). The nature of verbal short-term impairment in dyslexia: The importance of serial order. Frontiers in Psychology.
  41. Markant, J., & Amso, D. (2016). The development of selective attention orienting is an agent of change in learning and memory efficacy. Infancy, 21(2), 154–176. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Miller, P. H. (1990). The development of strategies of selective attention. In D. F. Bjorklund & D. F. Bjorklund (Eds.), Children’s strategies: Contemporary views of cognitive development (pp. 157–184). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  43. Miller, S., McCulloch, S., & Jarrold, C. (2015). The development of memory maintenance strategies: Training cumulative rehearsal and interactive imagery in children aged between 5 and 9. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 524. PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. Schiller, P. H. (1966). Developmental study of color-word interference. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(1), 105–108. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Simons, D. J., Boot, W. R., Charness, N., Gathercole, S. E., Chabris, C. F., Hambrick, D. Z., & Stine-Morrow, E. A. (2016). Do “brain-training” programs work? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 17, 103–186.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Studer-Luethi, B., Bauer, C., & Perrig, W. J. (2016). Working memory training in children: Effectiveness depends on temperament. Memory & Cognition, 44, 171–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wright, B. C. (2016). What Stroop tasks can tell us about selective attention from childhood to adulthood. British Journal of Psychology.
  48. Yim, H., Dennis, S. J., & Sloutsky, V. M. (2013). The development of episodic memory: Items, contexts, and relations. Psychological Science, 24, 2163–2172.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

Personalised recommendations