In studies on the development of cognitive processes, children are often grouped based on their ages before analyzing the data. After the analysis, the differences between age groups are interpreted as developmental differences. We argue that this approach is problematic because the variance in cognitive performance within an age group is considered to be measurement error. However, if a part of this variance is systematic, it can provide very useful information about the cognitive processes used by some children of a certain age but not others. In the current study, we presented 210 children aged 5 to 12. years with serial order short-term memory tasks. First we analyze our data according to the approach using age groups, and then we apply latent class analysis to form latent classes of children based on their performance instead of their ages. We display the results of the age groups and the latent classes in terms of serial position curves, and we discuss the differences in results. Our findings show that there are considerable differences in performance between the age groups and the latent classes. We interpret our findings as indicating that the latent class analysis yielded a much more meaningful way of grouping children in terms of cognitive processes than the a priori grouping of children based on their ages.

Cognitive development, Individual differences, Latent class analysis, Methodology, Short-term memory, Similarity effect
dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2014.04.002, hdl.handle.net/1765/64601
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Department of Psychology

Koppenol-Gonzalez Marin, G.V, Bouwmeester, S, & Vermunt, J.K. (2014). Short-term memory development: Differences in serial position curves between age groups and latent classes. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 126, 138–151. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2014.04.002