Like most psychological phenomena, learning and memory are influenced by many factors and undergo pronounced changes with development. Moreover, they interact with one another: what a child has learned in the past influences (though does not determine) what s/he remembers, and what a child remembers from an experience constrains what s/he learns from it. Although learning and memory are intimately linked, the question of how children build up a knowledge base from the individual events that they experience and remember has not been a focus of attention in the developmental literature. The relevance of the complementary question-how children keep individual episodes separate in memory- has been acknowledged for some time and has received considerable attention. Yet the fundamental question of how children connect individual episodes in time so that they contribute to the development of a general knowledge base has gone largely unexplored. The question is especially relevant as children enter the school years and find themselves in settings that demand that they integrate information that has been acquired at different times and in different contexts. Initial studies supported by R03 HD57291 demonstrated that 4- and 6-year-old children integrate between episodes under optimal testing circumstances. The proposed extension of this research has three specific aims: 1) To examine age-related changes in integration by preschool and early school-age children under conditions that more closely mimic those they encounter in educational and incidental learning situations. 2) To test factors expected to increase versus decrease the probability of integration of information learned in separate episodes. 3) To examine possible consequences of self-generation of knowledge through integration- relative to information explicitly taught-including more robust retention and greater resistance to interference. These three aims are pursued in 7 experiments with children 4, 6, and 8 years of age. The age range was selected because it is during this time that the demands of formal schooling are introduced, including the expectation that children will accumulate information over the course of a term, and integrate it.
Integration between episodes of learning is a critical means of extending knowledge. It is a process that is crucial for school success as well as for incidental learning yet we know little about the factors that influence it. The proposed research will inform this question and thereby promote understanding of factors that may pose risks for academic failure and poor mental health (including anxiety and depression).
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|Bauer, Patricia J; Larkina, Marina (2014) The onset of childhood amnesia in childhood: a prospective investigation of the course and determinants of forgetting of early-life events. Memory 22:907-24|
|Varga, Nicole L; Bauer, Patricia J (2013) Effects of delays on 6-year-old children's self-generation and retention of knowledge through integration. J Exp Child Psychol 115:326-41|