01/08/2019 Computer Science Medicine Psychology
DOI: 10.1111/COGS.12770 SemanticScholar ID: 201374252 MAG: 2966475317

Cognitive Offloading: Structuring the Environment to Improve Children’s Working Memory Task Performance

Publication Summary

Research has shown that adults can engage in cognitive offloading, whereby internal processes are offloaded onto the environment to help task performance. Here, we investigate an application of this approach with children, in particular children with poor working memory. Participants were required to remember and recall sequences of colors by placing colored blocks in the correct serial order. In one condition the blocks were arranged to facilitate cognitive offloading (i.e., grouped by color), whereas in the other condition they were arranged randomly. Across two experiments (total N = 166) the ordered condition improved task performance for children with low working memory ability. In addition, participants in Experiment 2 rated the difficulty of the two arrangements and performed a further condition in which they were given an opportunity to freely arrange the blocks before completing the task. Despite performing better in the ordered condition, children with low working memory ability did not rate the ordered arrangement as easier, nor did they choose an ordered arrangement when given the opportunity to do so. This research shows that cognitive offloading can also be a useful process in populations other than typical adults, and the implications of this work for supporting children with poor working memory are discussed.

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Richard Allen

Dr. Richard Allen

University of Leeds - Associate Professor

Avatar Image for Mark Mon-Williams

Prof. Mark Mon-Williams

University of Leeds - Chair in Cognitive Psychology

Avatar Image for Amanda Waterman

Prof. Amanda Waterman

University of Leeds - Professor of Cognitive Development

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