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Thirty-five-month-old children have spontaneous memories despite change of context for retrieval

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Many parents have experienced incidents in which their preschool child spontaneously (i.e., without prompting of any kind) recall a previously experienced event. Until recently, such spontaneous memories had only been examined in non-controlled settings (e.g., diary studies). Using a novel experimental paradigm, a previous study has shown that when young children are brought back to a highly distinct setting (same room, same experimenter, same furnishing), in which they previously experienced an interesting event (a Teddy or a Game event), spontaneous memories can be triggered. However, exactly which cues (or combination of cues) are effective for the children’s memory, remains unknown. Here, we used this novel paradigm to examine the possible impact of contextual cues at the time of retrieval. We manipulated whether the 35-month-old children returned to the same room (n = 40) or to a different, but similarly furnished, room (n = 40) after one week. The results revealed that although the children returning to a new room produced fewer spontaneous memories than the children returning to the same room, the difference was not significant. Interestingly, despite changing rooms, the children still produced spontaneous memories. Taken together the results may shed new light on the mechanisms underlying childhood amnesia.
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Keywords: Spontaneous memories; childhood amnesia; contextual cues; episodic memories

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center on Autobiographical Memory Research, Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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