This project will investigate children's memory for their everyday experiences, such as going to school. Two types of memory will be investigated: (1) script memory and (2) episodic memory. Script memory refers to an abstract general memory for the typical activities that occur during routine events (e.g., eating at a restaurant). Episodic memory refers to memory for a specific event episode. The research will address three specific interrelated questions. The first is the role of script memory in facilitating episodic memory. Of interest are the conditions under which children remember specific episodes of a repeated event. For example, it has been argued that episodic memories are established only when a particular experience deviates substantially from the typical scripted event. Whether an episode is perceived as different depends on several factors, such as event complexity, similarity to other event experiences, and the frequency of experiences. To determine how these conditions function, the research will use novel, artificial events created for children to experience. This will provide systematic control of these factors. Second, the research will use the same sorts of events to examine how these same elements contribute to script memory development. Of interest is whether differences in event experience will produce different levels of script abstraction. Second, the studies will examine whether there are developmental differences between younger and older children on how much they depend on scripts to form an episodic memory. That is, are younger children more likely than older children to falsely report typical script activities when recalling an episodic event. even when that activity did not occur during that particular episode? These studies will investigate the conditions (i.e., the complexity, frequency and similarity of events) in which script dependency occurs. Of interest is whether the degree of script dependency can be altered in both older and younger children under these different event conditions. Results of this research will have implications both for education and for the judicial system. First, by examining the conditions under which children form different types of memories, it will be possible to create learning experiences to facilitate the acquisition of different educational concepts that are more appropriate for either script or episodic memory. Second, this research will provide much needed information on the accuracy of children's memory. This information is important for questions regarding children's eyewitness testimony in cases of physical and sexual abuse. In many of these cases, children are often called to testify about repeated events that took place over an extended period of time.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Jasmine V. Young
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University of Florida
United States
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