Development of visual working memory and distractor resistance in relation to academic performance

Hiroyuki Tsubomi*, Katsumi Watanabe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Visual working memory (VWM) enables active maintenance of goal-relevant visual information in a readily accessible state. The storage capacity of VWM is severely limited, often as few as 3 simple items. Thus, it is crucial to restrict distractor information from consuming VWM capacity. The current study investigated how VWM storage and distractor resistance develop during childhood in relation to academic performance in the classroom. Elementary school children (7- to 12-year-olds) and adults (total N = 140) completed a VWM task with and without visual/verbal distractors during the retention period. The results showed that VWM performance with and without distractors developed at similar rates until reaching adult levels at 10 years of age. In addition, higher VWM performance without distractors was associated with higher academic scores in literacy (reading and writing), mathematics, and science for the younger children (7- to 9-year-olds), whereas these academic scores for the older children (10- to 12-year-olds) were associated with VWM performance with visual distractors. Taken together, these results suggest that VWM storage and distractor resistance develop at a similar rate, whereas their contributions to academic performance differ with age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-112
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Feb 1


  • Academic performance
  • Capacity limit
  • Distractor resistance
  • Elementary school children
  • Vision
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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