A strong working memory has many benefits. According to new research, among other benefits, working memory is linked with doing better in school. The study, from Université Sainte-Anne and Université de Montréal, finds that memory abilities in toddlers predict whether children will stay in school. The researchers say that the findings emphasize the importance of early interventions.
The researchers collected responses from 1,824 children at age 2.5 years and again at age 3.5 years. The children completed an imitation sorting task, which is a test that measures working memory. When the children reached grade seven, the researchers compared the memory test data to school-related attitudes and the children’s academic results.
The children who performed better on the memory tasks as toddlers were more likely to do better in school in seventh grade. As such, they are more likely to stay in school.
“Our results suggest that early individual differences in working memory may contribute to developmental risk for high school dropout, as calculated from student engagement in school, grade point average, and whether or not they previously repeated a year in school. When taken together, those factors can identify which 12-year-olds are likely to fail to complete high school by the age of 21,” stated Caroline Fitzpatrick, first author of the study and researcher at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre.
Fortunately, there are ways to develop children’s working memory skills. Toddlers can benefit from engaging in pretend play, which strengthens working memory by requiring them to keep track of various roles. Parents can also encourage mindfulness by helping children focus on moment-to-moment experiences. For older children, practicing breathing exercising, doing guided meditation, or performing vigorous aerobic activities can boost working memory. Children of all ages can improve working memory by limiting their use of electronic devices.
This research is published in the journal Intelligence.