Memory span

The tests in Lucid Recall are constructed in levels, each level representing an increase in the number of items of information that have to be held in working memory. The maximum number of items of information that an individual can hold in working memory is called their ‘memory span’, and for each of the three core tests in Lucid Recall this figure is shown on the report. The memory span range is fairly small: for the age range used in Lucid Recall (7:0 – 16:11) the span ranges are 2–6 for word recall and counting recall, and 4–10 for pattern recall. For this reason, the data are not suitable for standardisation in the conventional sense, because the basic psychometric principles of normality of distribution, including kurtosis being below acceptable limits, are not met (for further explanation of the reasons for this, see Section 1.3.3). So instead of presenting memory span in terms of standard scores and centiles, a simple comparison with the age group is provided in three bands: ‘low’, ‘average’ and ‘high’, where the ‘average’ range represents the modal score range for that age group, with ‘low’ and ‘high’ covering the score range below and above this respectively.

Memory span is dependent on the nature of the information being processed. For example, for an 8-year-old, a memory span of five is above average for words but only average for patterns. This is partly because words require more memory storage space than simple patterns, and partly because the child learns to process visual information before being faced with the complexities of relating spoken words to their printed forms. Memory span also tends to increase with age. For example, a memory span of seven for patterns is above average at age 8 but below average at age 12.