New research finds working memory is the key to early academic achievement

July 8, 2014

Working memory in children is linked strongly to reading and academic achievement, a new study from the University of Luxembourg and partner Universities from Brazil has shown. Moreover, this finding holds true regardless of socio-economic status. This suggests that children with learning difficulties might benefit from teaching methods that prevent working memory overload. The study was published recently in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The study was conducted in Brazil on 106 children between 6 and 8 from a range of social backgrounds, with half living under the official . Similar studies have been conducted in the English-speaking world, so it was interesting to see that the results were similar in this highly-unequal, Portuguese-speaking society.

The study sought to identify the cognitive skills underpinning learning success. Children were tested for IQ and so-called "executive functions", a set of cognitive processes that we use to control our thoughts and actions, including how we remember information, control our emotions, pay attention and shift between thoughts. These results were compared to attainment in reading, spelling, mathematics, language and science. The results show that a child's skills - their ability to hold and work with information in mind - predicted success in all aspects of learning, regardless of IQ. Moreover, most children identified by their teachers as "poor readers" struggle with their working memory.

"Our findings suggest the importance of early screening and intervention, especially in the context of poverty. At present, poor working memory is rarely identified by teachers," said project leader Dr. Pascale Engel de Abreu, Associate Professor at the University of Luxembourg "Poor literacy, low and living in poverty create a mutually reinforcing cycle. There is a chance to break this by early identification of with working memory problems and by helping them to acquire the mental tools which will enable them to learn," she added.

Explore further: Study shows difference in cognitive ability between low-income rural, urban children

More information: Executive functioning and reading achievement in school: a study of Brazilian children assessed by their teachers as poor readers, orbilu.uni.lu/handle/10993/16964

Related Stories

Speaking two languages also benefits low-income children

August 27, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Living in poverty is often accompanied by conditions that can negatively influence cognitive development. Is it possible that being bilingual might counteract these effects? Although previous research has ...

Recommended for you

Brain disruptions similar across many emotional disorders

September 28, 2016

Researchers have long known that emotional disorders have a lot in common. Many often occur together, like depression and social anxiety disorder. Treatments also tend to work across multiple disorders, suggesting shared ...

Study shows puberty changes facial recognition

September 28, 2016

Faces are as unique as fingerprints and can reveal a great deal of information about our health, personalities, age, and feelings. Penn State researchers recently discovered adolescents begin to view faces differently as ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.