Working Memory and Thinking

Often we take for granted that a child should see the world in the same way as we do. Yet, we do not see world, we construct and make our world. By using our senses, we gain information about the world and we use this to decide what is really happening.

A range of methods can be used to show that a child’s brain do not interpret her sensory information in the “correct” way. You can show how she fills in gaps in the information and draws an incorrect conclusion. This way of showing a difference between what you see and how you perceive something is common.

There are other factors than lack of visual information than can influence and change a child’s perception of a situation. A child’s visual working memory can also influence and change the way she sees the world.

Information is held for a short period in the working memory while a child is manipulating the visual information. The visual working memory is a link between perception and higher brain functions, such as learning, reasoning, and problem solving. Often the information is held for a couple seconds in the visual working memory. A child’s visual working memory improves with age and the visual memory matures to full function faster than the auditory working memory.

A child’s visual working memory may interact with the perception of a situation or problem. This may result in the wrong conclusion being made. Working memory is important because it provides a mental workspace in which a child can hold information whilst mentally engaged in other activities.

The capacity to do this is crucial to many learning activities in the classroom. A child may hold visual information in the working memory but the memory may interfere with the way she can react to things that she sees.

Kang, M-N, et al (2011) Visual working memory contaminates perception. Psychonomic Bulletin Review.

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