Effects of children's working memory capacity and processing speed on their sentence imitation performance

Gerard H. Poll, Carol A. Miller, Elina Mainela-Arnold, Katharine Donnelly Adams, Maya Misra, Ji Sook Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: More limited working memory capacity and slower processing for language and cognitive tasks are characteristics of many children with language difficulties. Individual differences in processing speed have not consistently been found to predict language ability or severity of language impairment. There are conflicting views on whether working memory and processing speed are integrated or separable abilities. Aims: To evaluate four models for the relations of individual differences in children's processing speed and working memory capacity in sentence imitation. The models considered whether working memory and processing speed are integrated or separable, as well as the effect of the number of operations required per sentence. The role of working memory as a mediator of the effect of processing speed on sentence imitation was also evaluated. Methods & Procedures: Forty-six children with varied language and reading abilities imitated sentences. Working memory was measured with the Competing Language Processing Task (CLPT), and processing speed was measured with a composite of truth-value judgment and rapid automatized naming tasks. Mixed-effects ordinal regression models evaluated the CLPT and processing speed as predictors of sentence imitation item scores. A single mediator model evaluated working memory as a mediator of the effect of processing speed on sentence imitation total scores. Outcomes & Results: Working memory was a reliable predictor of sentence imitation accuracy, but processing speed predicted sentence imitation only as a component of a processing speed by number of operations interaction. Processing speed predicted working memory capacity, and there was evidence that working memory acted as a mediator of the effect of processing speed on sentence imitation accuracy. Conclusions & Implications: The findings support a refined view of working memory and processing speed as separable factors in children's sentence imitation performance. Processing speed does not independently explain sentence imitation accuracy for all sentence types, but contributes when the task requires more mental operations. Processing speed also has an indirect effect on sentence imitation by contributing to working memory capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-342
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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