Can Processing Speed Moderate the Relationship Between Working Memory Improvement on Reading Skills?

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Children with attention deficits often display an underlying weakness in both working memory and processing speed. Those with slow processing speed typically experience reading comprehension and oral reading fluency difficulties. Researchers utilizing Cogmed™ working memory training as an intervention to improve academic performance have inconsistently found enhanced reading performance alongside improvement in working memory. In the current study, 17 children between the ages of 7.5 and 15 who were identified as having learning difficulties and met the study criteria of not having deficits in phonological awareness completed 25 half-hour sessions of Cogmed over 5 weeks. Results revealed the subset of children who improved on Reading Comprehension had stronger Working Memory Indexes posttraining than they did prior to Cogmed, even while controlling for General Ability Index. Additionally, there was a mild interaction between the Working Memory Index improvement and processing speed or rapid automatized naming on Oral Reading Fluency improvement, but not Reading Comprehension. However, the interaction was not in the anticipated direction. Thus, it seems that the relationship between children’s processing speed and their capacity to benefit from Cogmed™ is complex. Although further research is needed to tease out these relationships, this study nevertheless lends credence to the premise of a potential near-transfer effect of Cogmed that contributes to improvement in other abilities for some children with learning difficulties.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD, Non-Clinical)

First Advisor

Nolty, Anne

Document Type





Behavior therapy for children, Short-term memory, Reading, Reading comprehension




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