An improved spatial span test of visuospatial memory

David L Woods, John M. Wyma, Timothy J. Herron, E. William Yund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In the widely used Corsi Block Test and Wechsler Spatial Span Tests, participants must reproduce sequences of blocks in the order touched by the examiner until two trials are missed at the same sequence length. The examiner records either the maximum number of blocks correctly reported or the total number of correct lists. Here, we describe a computerized spatial span test (C-SST) that uses psychophysical procedures to quantify visuospatial mean span (MnS) with sub-digit precision. Results from 187 participants ranging in age from 18 to 82 years showed that accuracy declined gradually with list length around the MnS (by ∼30% per item). Simulation studies revealed high variance and biases in CBT and Wechsler measures, and demonstrated that the C-SST provided the most accurate estimate of true span (i.e., the sequence length producing 50% correct). MnS declined more rapidly with age than mean digit span (MnDS) measured in the same participants. Response times correlated with both MnS and MnDS scores. Error analysis showed that omission and transposition errors predominated, with weaker primacy and recency effects in spatial span than digit span testing. The C-SST improves the precision of spatial span testing and reveals significant differences between visuospatial and verbal working memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - Sep 9 2015


  • aging
  • computer
  • Digit span
  • gender
  • meta-analysis
  • processing speed
  • reaction time
  • review
  • sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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