The spacing effect in young children’s free recall: Support for automatic-process explanations

Abstract

The effect of spacing repetitions on children’s free recall was investigated in two experiments. In Experiment 1, both 4-year-old children and 7-year-old children exhibited a spacing effect in free recall, and the magnitude of the effect did not change with age. In Experiment 2, free recall was examined as a function of spacing, age (3 years old vs. 4 years old) and presentation rate (1 vs. 2 vs. 5 sec per stimulus). A spacing effect was obtained that did not differ as a function of age or presentation rate. Of particular interest was the fact that 3-year-olds exhibited a strong spacing effect even when stimuli were presented at a very rapid 1-sec rate. The results support the hypothesis that fundamental memory mechanisms that operate relatively automatically are sufficient to produce a spacing effect in free recall.

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Correspondence to Thomas C. Toppino.

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This research was supported by Grant HD21209 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Toppino, T.C. The spacing effect in young children’s free recall: Support for automatic-process explanations. Memory & Cognition 19, 159–167 (1991). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03197112

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Keywords

  • Free Recall
  • Serial Position
  • Presentation Rate
  • Spacing Effect
  • List Structure