Working Memory as a Remembrance of a Reward: Do Children Recall Shapes When Given a Reward?

Paper Type:  Research proposal
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1644 Words
Date:  2022-06-04


The understanding of working memory comes from experiments in animals, and imaging techniques such as MRI in humans. There are hundreds of research laboratories around the world studying the various aspects of the subject. Working memory is generally considered of limited capacity. The earliest quantification of the capacity limit associated with short-term memory was "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two" introduced by George A. Miller (1956). Moreover, working memory is often viewed as a flexible workspace that not only stores information but also plays an active role in processing and manipulating information. To determine whether there is a general capacity for all working memory tasks, Turner and Engle (1989) developed a task called operation span or OSPAN. Operation span measures predict verbal abilities and reading comprehension even though the subjects are solving mathematical problems. Engle and his colleagues have argued that this implies a general pool of resources that are used in every type of working memory situation.

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In a research article by Swanson et al. (2016), a study was conducted to determine the working memory components and visual-spatial sketchpad best predicted mathematical word problem-solving accuracy in elementary schoolchildren. One model tested in this study is that the phonological component of WM primarily influences the influence of WM on children's mathematical word problem solving because of its strong association with reading. The total sample consisted of 392 children in the third grade. 191 males and 201 females selected from six Southwest public schools. The WM tasks in this study required participants to hold increasingly complex information in memory while responding to a question about the task. The questions served as distracters to item recall. The battery of tests administered to assess mediators between WM and problem-solving included measures of fluid intelligence, reading and calculation. The results support the notion that both the executive and phonological storage components of WM draw upon some of the same resources in predicting problem-solving. Moreover, these findings suggest that there are multiple pathways that mediate the relationship between components of WM performance and problem-solving accuracy.

Another similar study by Wang et al. (2014), participants' working memory was assessed by the Automated Operation Span Task. They solved mental addition problems of different types under low and high-pressure conditions. The performance was analyzed as a function of pressure condition, working memory capacity, and problem type. They asked primary school children to perform a mental arithmetic task, which is commonly practiced in their daily study and replicated the choking under pressure phenomenon. What was found was that pressure impacts children's test performance from a very young age and in a different culture; previous studies of pressure have used adult and college student's samples in the West. On no carry mental addition problems, there was no difference between the two groups of children regardless the presence of pressure. For problems with carries, low WM children performed worse on all tasks compared with high WM children in the no-pressure condition. High or low working memory elementary school-aged children were affected by pressure was dependent on the task difficulty and the types of strategies that could be used to solve the problems.

The purpose of this study is to find a link between visual-spatial measures and cognitive control such as attention in the middle school-aged children. Previous studies have found that visual-spatial measures and storage cannot be separated and has failed to identify a direct link to problem-solving accuracy. Other studies have found a link or performance and problem-solving mathematics in real-life classrooms. The gaps in the literature have failed to find a link between visual-spatial measures and cognitive control such as attention in the middle school-aged children. The proposed hypothesis is that children are more likely to recall shapes when presented with a reward.



In this study, middle-aged children, aged between 10 and 11 years will be the participants. The study will require 50 boys and 50 girls, randomly selected to take part in the proposed study. No participant in this study will have prior information on the modalities of the study or even the nature of the rewards. This will be vital in ensuring that the results of the study are more accurate and verifiable. Furthermore, all participants will be required to be healthy and not subject to external factors that can affect the quality of the study.

Materials and Apparatus

This experiment involves the testing for the remembrance of shapes, first, with no promised rewards and second with a promised reward. The materials required include:

Four series of symbols, each series containing four different types of images. In total, there will be sixteen images that the children will be required to recall as per the procedure given below. All images must be clear and distinct from each other. Also, the symbols can be anything, including pets, computer keys, but they should not be confusing in shapes at all.

Questionnaire booklets where the children were required to tick against the symbols that they recall, as per the procedure stated in this study. The questionnaire papers should be of different for each level of the experiment to avoid preempting the objectives of the experiment.

A Computer, Projector and a Display Screen

Design and Analysis

The main objective of this experiment was to determine the relationship between rewards and working memory in middle-aged children. A peripheral examination in this study also determined the effect of repetitive exposure on working memory. This did not require new procedures as the procedures for the main objective were adequate also to examine this peripheral objective. This experiment involved two stages. The first stage of the experiment was to determine the working memory of the children, by testing the remembrance of the symbols presented to them, but with no rewards promised. The time of exposure for each series of images was strictly one second. The second stage involved the determination of the effect of awards on the working memory. The procedures were similar to those in the first stage. The results in both stages were compared, and the conclusions and recommendations are drawn appropriately. The number of symbols that a child was able to recall was used as a gauge of his/her working memory level.


The preliminary arrangements were made, whereby all the children to participate in the test were selected. All materials required for the test were also gathered and approved, a day before the test was conducted. The real test began by all children taking distinct seating positions in front of the already mounted display surface and projector. Each child was presented with a questionnaire booklet before the test began. The first series of images were displayed for one second and the children required to tick against the images they saw from a set of 16 images on the first page of the questionnaire booklet. Next, two series of symbols were shown, including the set shown previously and the children were required to tick against the images they could recall on the next page of the questionnaire booklet. The number of check symbols in the questionnaire booklet was increased to 24. In the next step, three series of images were displayed for three seconds and the children required to tick against the images they could recall in the third page of the questionnaire booklet, this time containing 32 symbols. Again, the first and second series of symbols was retained. In the next step, four series of symbols were displayed for four seconds and the children required to tick against the symbols they could recall from a list of 48 symbols. All these procedures were then repeated, with a completely new set of symbols, but with the promise of a reward to the child who could recall the most symbols.

Results and Discussion

The results of this study were analyzed using a computer. If a child ticked a symbol corresponding to the one displayed on the screen, he/she was deemed to have recalled the symbol. From the results, it was evident that the remembrance levels were significantly higher when the children were promised an award. There was an overall 78% rate of correct matching of displayed images when an award was promised, compared to a rate of 65% correct matching when no award was promised. Therefore, it is clear in this study that rewards have a significant effect on the working memory of the middle-aged children. From these results, I was also able to examine the effect of repetitive exposure on the working memory. It was noted that by the time the four series of images were displayed together, most of the children were able to recall the first set of images displayed as it was being displayed for the fourth time.86 of the hundred children were able to recall all the images shown in the first series after the fourth repetition, compared to 61 who were able to recall all the images after the first display. This clearly shows that there is a correlation between repetitive exposure and working memory. Conclusively, the working memory of middle-aged children is flexible, and hence it is significantly affected by external factors, such as rewards.


Choi, H. c., van Merrienboer, J., & Paas, F. (2014). Effects of the physical environment On cognitive load and learning: Towards a New Model of Cognitive Load. Educational Psychology Review, 26(2), 225-244. Doi: 10.1007/s10648-014-9262-6

Fitzpatrick, C., Archambault, I., Janosz, M., & Pagani, L. S. (2015). Early childhood Working memory forecasts high school dropout risk. Intelligence, 53160-165. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2015.10.002

Paas, F., & Ayres, P. (2014). Cognitive Load Theory: A broader view on the role of memory In Learning and Education. Educational Psychology Review, 26(2), 191-195.

Swanson, H. l., & Wenson, F. (2016). Working memory components and Problem-Solving Accuracy: Are there multiple pathways? Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(8), 1153-1177. Doi: 10.1037/edu0000116

Wang, Z., & Shah, P. (2014). The effect of pressure on high- and low-working-memory Students: An elaboration of the choking under pressure hypothesis. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(2), 226-238. doi:10.1111/bjep.12027

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Working Memory as a Remembrance of a Reward: Do Children Recall Shapes When Given a Reward?. (2022, Jun 04). Retrieved from

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