Following instructions in a virtual school: Does working memory play a role?

Agnieszka J. Jaroslawska, Susan E. Gathercole, Matthew R. Logie, Joni Holmes

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Accumulating evidence that working memory supports the ability to follow instructions has so far been restricted to experimental paradigms that have greatly simplified the practical demands of performing actions to instructions in everyday tasks. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether working memory is involved in maintaining information over the longer periods of time that are more typical of everyday situations that require performing instructions to command. Forty-two children 7–11 years of age completed assessments of working memory, a real-world following-instructions task employing 3-D objects, and two new computerized instruction-following tasks involving navigation around a virtual school to complete a sequence of practical spoken commands. One task involved performing actions in a single classroom, and the other, performing actions in multiple locations in a virtual school building. Verbal working memory was closely linked with all three following-instructions paradigms, but with greater association to the virtual than to the real-world tasks. These results indicate that verbal working memory plays a key role in following instructions over extended periods of activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580–589
Number of pages10
JournalMemory and Cognition
Early online date17 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016

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