Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Joseph C. LaVoie

Second Advisor

Thomas Lorsbach

Third Advisor

C. Raymond Millimet


The present study focused on the development of memory in young children. The subjects were eighty-three two- and five-year old children who participated in immediate recall memory tasks for toys, pictures in a story and nonstory context, and ingredients used in making graham cracker cookies. These children were tested in their own homes. Long term memory for toys and ingredients was also assessed at one week. Parents were asked to record children's spontaneous comments in a scripted diary for the week following the experimenter's visit. At the end of the week, a photograph of the experimenter and child, which had been taken at the time of the visit, was returned to the parents. The photograph was shown to the child, and his/her comments recorded. The diary also included a series of verbal prompts which parents used to elicit information from the child during the interview. Half of the subjects were interviewed by an adult who was present for the visit, while the other half were interviewed by a nonpresent adult. Memory for the event of the experimenter's visit was thus documented by diary records. The findings of this study were largely consistent with previous research, with five-year olds remembering more than two-year olds on all parametric measures. Pictures presented in a story context were recalled better than those in a nonstory condition, although an interaction indicated that only girls were significantly affected by the manipulation. Two-year olds, but not five-year olds, differed in their recall of three types of stimuli used in short term memory tasks. In a five-way analysis of variance which examined memory for toys, and ingredients over one week, several interactions emerged: (1) five-year olds recalled stimuli better at short term than at long term, but for two-year olds there was no difference; (2) five-year olds reported more ingredients than toys, while two-year olds did the reverse; (3) toys were recalled better at short term, but ingredients were recalled better at long term. Contrary to prediction, children interviewed by a present adult had higher recall scores than those interviewed by a nonpresent adult. Diary data, as measured in meaning units (M.U.s), were analyzed with both parametric and nonparametric statistics. Analyses of variance revealed only age effects, with five-year olds achieving greater recall. Nonparametric tests showed that two-year old girls reported more information overall than boys of that age. For same-day reports, five-year olds had more M.U.s, but two-year olds scored higher on later days. When the data were examined according to the mention of an item, five-year olds were no longer superior to the younger group in memory performance. The results of this study indicate that while developmental gains are apparent across these age groups, the salience of stimuli and the extent of subjects' experience with them are critical factors in memory performance. Scripts of familiar events may also aid recall. Memory for an event was clearly demonstrated by both age groups. When quantitative factors are controlled, two-year olds appear to be as competent in this area as the older group. These data, together with a wealth of anecdotal evidence, suggest that two-year old children have considerable memorial capacity.

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