Poster Session B, Sunday, March 24, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Role of Domain-general Cognitive Skills in Reading Fluency Skill in Middle Childhood
Jessica Younger1, Bruce McCandliss2, Fumiko Hoeft3, Joaquin Anguera1, Jyoti Mishra4, Adam Gazzaley1, Melina Uncapher1; 1University of California at San Francisco, 2Stanford University, 3University of Connecticut, 4University of California, San Diego
Reading is often considering a highly specialized process, relying on neural regions involved in perceptual expertise, yet recent research has recognized it also relies on more domain general skills such as executive function (EF). Understanding the contributions of domain-general skills to specialized processes can help elucidate individual differences in trajectories of specialization. Yet, we do not have a precise understanding of the contributions of EF to reading across development. In the current study, we examined whether three major aspects of EF—visuo-spatial working memory, cognitive flexibility, and interference resolution—uniquely contribute to reading fluency beyond sound-symbol correspondence knowledge, and whether these contributions differ across elementary and middle school. As part of a larger in-school study, we used novel, adaptive, tablet-based tasks to assess executive function-related and reading-related skills in 4th, 6th, and 8th grade students (N=689; project iLEAD). We then used regression analyses to examine the relative predictive power of each of these constructs on reading fluency skill over development. As expected, we found sound-symbol knowledge to be most predictive of reading fluency. Yet, including executive function measures significantly improved the predictive model. We next predicted that, as reading skills improve between elementary and middle school, the predictors of reading fluency may change. A significant interaction between grade level and working memory showed this skill contributes to reading fluency to a greater degree in elementary school children compared to middle school children. These results suggest a developmental arc in which domain-general skills are important early in development and decrease as specialization increases.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Development & aging