Monday, 16 May 2016

Blog: Knowing When Things Happened

Author: Connie Tang
Paper: Young Children's Reports of When Events Occurred: Do Event Type and Assessment Method Matter?

Young children go through life experiencing personally meaningful events as well as learning various knowledge about living. So long as children have developed a sense of self and are able to form autobiographical memories, they also begin to pay attention to the context of their memories. For example, when young children receive presents, they not only remember what the present was, they may also remember who gave them the present, where they received the present, and when this exciting event happened. 

The same process should also apply to children learning something new. Our research aimed to investigate whether young children recognize when they experienced physical events the same way as they experienced learning events. We also wanted to know if the way we ask children about when things happened influenced their answers.

In two experiments, we worked with 3- to 5-year-old preschoolers from a diverse ethnic and socioeconomic background. Across both experiments, children learned novel animal facts and body movements over a one-week span. They also colored novel animal posters and posed for photographs while displaying novel body movements. The same children then answered two types of time questions regarding the various physical and learning events: The first question type assessed children’s understanding of time points (e.g., the question of “Which did you color before today?”), and the second question type examined children’s understanding of time periods (e.g., the question of “Which did you learn a longer time ago?”).

Overall, we found young children report when they experienced physical events similarly as they experienced learning events. However, the way we asked children about when things happened affected their performance: Children were more accurate answering questions assessing time periods, and they were less accurate responding to questions assessing time points. 

Author keywords: young childre, episodic memory, knowledge acquisition, metacognition
DOI: 10.1002/icd.1963

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