Digit Span

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Digit Span

Basic Characteristics

  • Description

Memory span is the number of items that a person can retain and recall. Digit span, therefore, is that amount of numbers a person can retain and recall. Digit span is considered a measure of working memory although attention and comprehension also contribute to performance. Procedures for this assessment of working memory are considered standard. A list of numbers is read out loud at a rate of one number per second and then the participant is asked to recall the numbers in order. The first list will consist of three numbers and increase until the person begins to make errors. Lists of recognizable patterns (1 3 5 7 9) should be avoided as people may remember these numbers more easily. At the end of each sequence the participant is asked to recall items in order. The average adult can remember a sequence of seven numbers, plus or minus two. This test can be distributed both backwards and forwards. Scores are thought to correlate with age and not intelligence.

  • History

Oliver W. Holmes (1871) was the first to recognize that there was a limit on the number of verbal items a person could repeat correctly on the basis of a single presentation. His research led him to conclude that the average person could remember between seven to ten figures or letters. Jacobs (1887) referred to this linguistic capacity as the "threshold of verbal memory". In preliminary tests of this threshold items were read at a rate of two per second. A person's "span" was considered to be the longest sequence of each kind of item that a person could accurately reproduce. Jacobs felt that memory span measured the power of concentrated and prolonged attention.

  • References

Silver and Goodman, 2008. Verbal as well as spatial working memory predicts visuospatial processing in male schizophrenia patients PMID 18294818

Richardson, 2007. Measures of short-term memory: a historical review PMID 17715798

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Task Details

  • Task Structure (please given an overview of the task procedures here [i.e., overall design, block, trial, and within-trial event structure and timing])
    • procedure
      • block:
      • trial:
  • Stimulus Characteristics
    • sensory modality (e.g., visual, auditory, somatosensory, gustatory, olfactory):
    • functional modality (e.g., linguistic, spatial, numerical, categorical):
    • presentation modality (e.g., human examiner, paper, computer display, headphones, speaker):
  • Response Characteristics
    • response required -
      • effector modality (e.g., vocal, manual, pedal):
      • functional modality (e.g., words, drawing, writing, keypress, movement):
    • response options (e.g., yes/no, go/no-go, forced choice, multiple choice [specify n of options], free response)-
    • response collection (e.g., examiner notes, keyboard, keypad, mouse, voice key, button press)-
  • Assessment/Control Characteristics
    • timing-
      • circadian dependency
    • control/confound assessments