The Measurement of Verbal Working Memory Capacity and Its Relation to Reading Comprehension

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Ninety-four subjects were tested on the Daneman and Carpenter (1980) reading span task, four versions of a related sentence span task in which reaction times and accuracy on sentence processing were measured along with sentence-final word recall, two number generation tasks designed to test working memory, digit span, and two shape-generation tasks designed to measure visual-spatial working memory. Forty-four subjects were retested on a subset of these measures at a 3-month interval. All subjects were tested on standard vocabulary and reading tests. Correlational analyses showed better internal consistency and test-retest reliability of the sentence span tasks than of the Daneman-Carpenter reading span task. Factor analysis showed no factor that could be related to a central verbal working memory; rotated factors suggested groupings of tests into factors that correspond to digitrelated tasks, spatial tasks, sentence processing in sentence span tasks, and recall in sentence span tasks. Correlational analyses and regression analyses showed that the sentence processing component of the sentence span tasks was the best predictor of performance on the reading test, with a small independent contribution of the recall component. The results suggest that sentence span tasks are unreliable unless measurements are made of both their sentence processing and recall components, and that the predictive value of these tasks for reading comprehension abilities lies in the overlap of operations rather than in limitations in verbal working memory that apply to both.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 1996

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