Working Memory in Naturalistic Versus Structured Settings

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Two children completing working memory task on a computer

Flexibility in rule use is crucial for learning, decision making, and future planning. Children that are able to flexibly use rules in novel contexts benefit both socially and academically. Effective rule-guided behavior arguably relies on two separable mechanisms of working memory (WM), WM updating and WM maintenance. We use a novel task to target the contributions of these WM processes to rule-guided behavior in 3-7-year-old children. Children participate in two analogous computerized and naturalistic WM tasks. We also look at how changes in WM relate to the development of this ability to use abstract rules, and how environmental experiences interact with these changes.