Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

College

College of Education and International Services

Program

Educational Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Nadia Nosworthy

Second Advisor

Tevni Grajales

Third Advisor

D'Jaris Coles-White

Abstract

Problem

Many studies suggest that Processing Speed (PS), Attention, and Working Memory (WM) are major cognitive functions that collaborate to achieve a coherent cognitive system. The aim of the current study was to improve the conception of how these cognitive functions interrelate. The study addressed two main questions: the first, whether PS can be predicted by WM (visual, verbal, and the central executive) and attention of elementary students in first and fifth grade; the second, whether there are gender differences in the rate of change in WM and PS from first to fifth grade.

Method

The participants were taken from a longitudinal study (n = 145, 71 boys) by Li and Geary (2017). In the study, students' WM was assessed by the Working Memory Test Battery for Children, PS was assessed by Rapid Automatic Naming, and attention was assessed by Strength and Weaknesses of ADHD—Symptoms and Normal Behavior (SWAN). The current study used canonical correlations and MANOVAs to answer the research questions.

Results

Overall correlations between the processing speed in fifth grade and working memory in first grade and attention was statistically significant (Wilks’ Lambda = .78, F(8, 278) = 4.61, p < .001, Rc2 = .17). Attention was a significant predictor (Beta = -.19, p = .024) of processing speed of number in fifth grade. The central executive in first grade (Beta = -.36, p =.001) was also a significant predictor of the processing speed of number in fifth grade. Correlations between processing speed in fifth grade and working memory in fifth grade and attention was statistically significant (Wilks’ Lambda = .80, F (8, 278) = 4.11, p < .001, Rc2 = .19). Visual working memory in fifth grade (Beta = -.21, p = .017) was the only significant predictor for processing speed of number in fifth grade. In terms of gender differences in the rate of change in working memory and processing speed from first to fifth grade the multivariate effect of gender was not statistically significant in which working memory (Wilks’ Lambda = 0.98, F(3, 141) = .54 p = .65) and processing speed (Wilks’ Lambda = 0.98, F(2, 1412) = 1.29 p = .65).

Conclusions

The central executive and attention in fifth grade were the best predictors of processing speed performance in fifth grade. However, in fifth grade the role of these cognitive functions in predicting processing speed shifted in which only visual working memory was the best predictor.

Subject Area

Short-term memory; Attention; School children--Psychology; Educational psychology; Cognitive learning

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

DOI

https://dx.doi.org/10.32597/dissertations/1695

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