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Working Memory Development Term Paper


Having a working memory means that one is in a position to keep some pieces of information active in one’s mind but only for a short period of between two and three seconds. The person can use this information for additional processing. Working memory is, therefore, a storage system that is temporary but still critical for carrying out various daily tasks. In this regard, a person’s ability to retain information ensures that knowledge and skills become automatic thereby reducing the need for one to think about each step of a task. The following essay will examine working memory development, focusing on the relationship between processing speed and attention.

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Working Memory Development Across the Lifespan
Working memory is also described as short term memory, but instead of the data going into one storage space, numerous systems help in storing various types of data. Working memory provides the chance for an individual to predict the future, examine the past and perceive time (Bays, Wu & Husain, 2011). It also ensures that one can organize information in a timely way. The central executive is the most critical part of the working memory model. However, there is little information on its manner of functioning. The Central Executive carries on the work of both monitoring as well as coordinating an individual’s ability to process visual as well as verbal information and relating them to the person’s long term memory (Buss & Spencer, 2014). As a person grows, the central executive plays a more prominent role when it comes to determining the type of information that one must focus on. For instance, two activities might conflict with each other such as talking on the phone and driving a car. Instead of hitting a pedestrian who is crossing the road without looking, it is preferable for one to stop speaking on the phone and focus on driving (Cowan, 2014). The central executive directs one’s attention and gives importance to specific activities.

The central executive is the most flexible and critical part of the working memory, but its strength declines as one grows older. In spite of this, there is still little information about this particular aspect of this system than the other subsystems it is responsible for (Cowan, Blume & Saults, 2013). The central executive system oversees attentional processes as opposed to being a store for memories. The central executive then ensures that the working memory system to take care of some stimuli and not others. One can use the metaphor of a manager to outline how the central executive works (Wass, Scerif & Johnson, 2012). The manager often decides the issues that need focusing on and which should be cast aside. They also choose various strategies to deal with challenges that might arise. However, similar to any other employee in the company, the manager can only engage in a restricted number of activities at the same time (Baddeley, 2012). The manager will collect data from numerous sources.

The part of the working memory which focuses on visual information describes the specific ways that different things look like. An individual’s ability to collect and break down this information increases with age peeking at adolescence and young adulthood. It begins to decline as one grows older primarily because of numerous health conditions (Gray et al., 2017). This decline in an individual’s ability to collect visual data to use in the short term often creates tension because it means the person cannot effectively update this particular information (Von Bastian & Oberauer, 2013). When one is aware of where he or she stands next to objects such as tables or desks, one can avoid knocking into them.

A person’s capacity to display both the spatial and the visual information kept in one’s working memory. There is an assumption that the performance of working memory heavily depends on the extent to which one can intelligently absorb information, encode and retrieve it. How working memory develops during childhood, therefore becomes a critical part of how well a person’s intellectual competency grows (Schaafsma et al., 2015). It is also assumed that a person’s ability to coordinate verbal and visual commands depends on how well the person can absorb and process short term data (Oberaier & Lin, 2017). This is the reason why many older people are encouraged to continually take part in activities that will enhance their ability to comprehend and memorize.

The episodic buffer often takes on the role of a backup store that communicates with the different components making up the working memory and long term memory. The episodic buffer acts as the third part of the working memory system which integrates the information that is heard and seen with a distinct sense of time (Darby & Sloutsky, 2017). In this way, the episodic buffer ensures that activities or tasks take place in a smooth sequence, in the same way as a movie or a book. This explains why a person’s memories often occur as a series of events that are coordinated as opposed to specific segments (Diamond, 2013). This particular segment of the working memory retrieves memories through a process of conscious awareness. It allows people to use some units of information already stored in their minds to come up with new ideas (Schaafsma et al., 2015).

In most instances, young children do not use any strategies for recalling short term memories spontaneously, but they can use these approaches when asked. Up to about 12 years, the amount of content that one can keep in their short term memory goes through significant changes. This aspect explains the gradual improvement in performance witnessed in memory tasks at this particular age (Gray et al., 2017). These changes outline the vital role that the episodic buffer plays in storing a wide range of features and memories which one can retrieve when consciously aware of them.

The development of working memory depends on teaching and aging of the individual. It means that the development depends both on anatomical and cognitive levels. The working memory is a model which consists of the primary buffer or central executive, and its slave systems that are the phonological loop and the visuospatial sketchpad. The phonological loop contains the sounds of language, and the visuospatial sketchpad stores visuals. Eventually, the working memory develops with the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for most memory actions and tasks. Also, learning exercises which involve listening, viewing and memorizing improve the working memory.

Attention is responsible for information processing and denotes the ability to maintain focus on the interested object and inhibit distracters. Attention develops with the changes in brain functioning and growth of the brain. The cerebral cortex, prefrontal cortex, and the anterior cingulate cortex perform a decisive and main role in developing attention and ability to inhibit distractors. It is possible to train attention by performing learning exercises.

Processing speed is the pace of perceiving and processing of information like letters or speech. The processing speed depends on the development of working memory and attention. Maturing and training affect the capacity of working memory and attention that increase processing speed.

The relationship between Processing Speed and Attention
Processing speed describes the extent to which a person can finish simple tasks within a reasonable degree of accuracy. Measures of this processing speed could include having someone name specific images found on a computer screen or being tasked with quickly searching for particular targets within an image (Bays et al., 2011). Realistically, an individual with a reliable processing speed would be a fast reader and success in jobs that need quick responses. At the same time, this speed is not always a sufficient determinant of how fast a given individual would be able to learn a new skill (Buss & Spencer, 2014). However, once this individual has gained the skills needed to carry out a task, it does become a useful predictor of the level at which a person can become skilled in this particular activity (Cowan et al., 2013). This element means that two individuals might be good at learning a given skill, but distinct differences might emerge in the level of accuracy and speed at which they carry out the task.

Processing speed has a strong link to an individual’s working memory ability and by extension his attention level. People who can break down information at a fast rate do not have to retain a large amount of data in their working memory meaning that they can remain attentive for a more extended period (Buss & Spencer, 2014). Moreover, a person’s working memory can often only hold onto information for a short period which means that those who take longer to absorb and break down data will quickly fill up their set out storage time (Baddeley, 2012). The process, therefore, follows this pattern: during childhood, one becomes more skilled and efficient at processing information. This high provides a person with the chance to store a large amount of data in his or her working memory (Bays et al., 2011). Because working memory is used in different types of mental processes such as comprehension and reasoning, this results in a higher level of intelligence.

Individuals often only have a small amount of room and time to retain an immediate memory before it goes away and they lose focus on whatever activity they were engaging in. Slow processing speed, therefore, negatively impacts on working memory because the person can only break down a small amount of data within the same time frame (Buss & Spencer, 2014). Slow processing harm the efficient use of one’s working memory abilities. The individual then has a difficult time when it comes to solving problems and acquiring new information (Schaafsma et al., 2015). This person then struggles with retaining information, losing it before it can be processed as a result of its slow pace which results in him or her showing signs of being distracted. They are more likely to become easily tired because they have to put in more cognitive effort (Cowan, 2014). The consequence is that these individuals might face challenges with studying and performing at the same level as those with higher processing speed.

Processing Speed is not an executive skill, but it can have a significant impact on a person’s executive functions including his ability to remain attentive. A person who is unable to process information at the expected speed will likely have issues with organizing and planning his activities, thinking flexibly or being attentive (Von Bastian & Oberauer, 2013). This individual will subsequently have challenges in the area of problem-solving and responding when faced with certain situations where quick thinking is necessary. Individuals with slow processing speeds are more likely to react impulsively (Buss & Spencer, 2014). They cannot go through the steps required to understand a problem, think about it and use their self-control to respond accordingly (Cowan et al., 2013). They, therefore, end up reacting in a way that is not well thought out. While they might have the skills to respond, they do not have the appropriate speed to ensure the effective use of these skills.

Slow processing speeds could lead to working memory challenges because the person is unable to retain information or answer questions about things they might have either read or heard about. This individual is also likely to face issues with paying attention because they are unable to keep up with the conversation (Bays et al., 2011). The amount of effort and focus that a person puts into completing particular activities is often a combination of his or her mental strength together with the speed of processing available information. An individual who finds it difficult to apply this mental strength will often argue that their brain is exhausted regardless of the task or amount of time spent doing this activity (Cowan et al., 2013). Challenges with working memory can extend the time it would ordinarily take a child to engage in particular jobs. For instance, after completing a paragraph, a child who has a poor working memory might not remember what he or she just read and might have to re-read it. In another instance, the child might refuse to work on a class assignment because he cannot remember the directions (Baddeley, 2012). Individuals who exhibit problems with working memory will display restlessness seen in their inability to sit for extended periods.

Slow processing speeds can also impact on an individual’s sense of time which means that when engaged in a task that seems boring, the time might appear to drag on while the opposite occurs when the activity is an interesting one. This aspect poses a challenge when planning work tasks because a person with a slow processing speed might often underestimate the amount of time they will spend on a given job (Buss & Spencer, 2014). For children, they might not be aware of the amount of time they have spent playing. As a whole, challenges with executive functioning and the inability to determine time could impact negatively on those with poor working memory. They might not carry out their responsibilities as expected subsequently resulting in a large amount of tension(Cowan et al., 2013). Individuals displaying slow processing speeds have also been reported to have weak cognitive skills as well as working memory.

More studies are finding a significant relationship between slow processing speeds and weaknesses in working memory particularly when it comes to paying attention. For instance, children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder were found to have reduced processing speed as opposed to those children who did not have this disorder (Baddeley, 2012; Schaafsma et al., 2015 ). Moreover, word reading scores and speed in naming colors were in some instances found to be lower in children with this disorder. Slower response times were recorded on performance tests carried out on individuals with ADHD (Von Bastian & Oberauer, 2013). This evidence suggests that individuals with slow processing speeds often have weaknesses in their working memory which might impact on their ability to engage in such actions as reading.

Working memory plays a critical role in an individual’s ability to effectively identify objects in his surrounding, organize and plan activities and information and give responses. Verbal and visual elements come together in this system to determine how an individual will react. Slow processing speeds often impact negatively on a person’s ability to recall information in the short term and remain attentive. This individual will, therefore, shy away from taking part in such activities as reading. He or she will act impulsively because of his inability to adopt flexible thinking which in the long run harms his mental as well as social development and ability to make strong social relationships.

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