Kids' Memories? Seems They Improve, with Time

I certainly know it's better than mine.

But did you know that kids can remember tomorrow what they forgot today.  I can't even remember today what I forgot today.  My teenager often has to remind me, "Mom, you went into the kitchen for orange juice."

A new study has revealed that small children can remember a piece of information better days later than they can on the day they first learned it.

Researchers discovered this by showing a video game to 4- and 5-year-olds.  The object was to 
 remember associations between objects.  The kids who re-played the game after a two-day delay scored more than 20 percent higher than kids who re-played it later the same day.

“An implication is that kids can be smarter than we necessarily thought they could be,” says Kevin Darby, a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University and co-author of the study, at “They can make complex associations, they just need more time to do it.”

Now I don't know about you but stuff I learned yesterday is pretty much gone.  No doubt, it's my age.  But it seems kids' memories, unlike adults', actually improve when there's a bit of a delay.

"First, we have showed that if children are given pieces of similar information in close proximity, the different pieces interfere with each other, and there is almost complete elimination of memory,” says lead study author Vladimir Sloutsky, professor of psychology at Ohio State and director of the university’s Cognitive Development Lab. “Second, we showed that introducing delays eliminates this interference.”

He notes that it may seem surprising that children can almost completely forget what they just learned, but that their memories can actually improve with time.

In a second experiment, the kids then played the game again immediately after, but the researchers scrambled the pairs belonging to Mickey and Pooh, so that the kids had to learn a completely new set of associations with the exact same objects.

Again, the kids started out scoring around 60 percent, and ended around 90 percent—scores that proved they were able to learn the new picture associations.

The researchers wanted to test whether learning the new associations in the second game caused the kids to forget what they learned in the first game, so they had half of the kids play one more time the same day. For this last game, the researchers brought back the original pair associations from the first game.

And it seemed that the kids did indeed experience extreme forgetting. They began the third game scoring around 60 percent, and ended scoring around 90 percent—as if they were learning the same information all over again from scratch.

“We know from previous research that kids struggle to form complex associations in the moment, so we thought that with some time off and periods of sleep they might be able to do better,” he says. “And it turned out that when they had time to absorb the information, they did better.”

A lot better, actually, according to Kids who had a two-day break began the game with an average score of nearly 85 percent, and finished with a score just above 90 percent. Their final scores were similar, but they remembered enough to start out with a 25-point advantage over kids who didn’t get a two-day break.

So what does that say for us?  Probably our acute remembering days are over, at least, for me.


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