Children's Familiarity Preference in Self-directed Study Improves Recognition Memory


In both adults and school-age children, volitional control over the presentation of stimuli during study leads to enhanced recognition memory. Yet little is known about how very young learners choose to allocate their time and attention during self-directed study. Using a recognition memory task, we investigate self-directed study in low-income preschoolers, who are at an age when attention, memory, and executive function skills rapidly develop and learning strategies emerge. By pre-exposing children to some items before self-directed study, we aimed to discover how familiarity modulates their study strategies. We found that children showed a preference for studying pre-exposed items. Overall, items studied longer led to increased recognition of those items at test. We also compared recognition task performance and strategies with measures of cognitive control skills, finding that children's selective attention skills support recognition performance. These findings may inform both theory and educational intervention.

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