For adults memories usually fade with time, but the same may not be true for children.
Children sometimes display ‘delayed remembering’, a new study shows.
Their recall can get clearer after time has passed.
Mr Kevin Darby, a study co-author, said:
“An implication is that kids can be smarter than we necessarily thought they could be.
They can make complex associations, they just need more time to do it.”
Children’s delayed remembering goes hand-in-hand with their so-called ‘extreme forgetting’.
With too much information, they can immediately forget what they’ve just learned.
Professor Vladimir Sloutsky, the study’s first author, explained:
“First, we 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.
Second, we showed that introducing delays eliminates this interference.
It seems surprising that children can almost completely forget what they just learned, but then their memories can actually improve with time.”
Delays can help children learn, Professor Sloutsky said:
“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.
And it turned out that when they had time to absorb the information, they did better.
We’ve shown that it’s possible for children’s memories to improve with time, but it’s not like we uncovered a method for super-charging how much they can remember.
The takeaway message is that kids can experience extreme forgetting, and the counter-intuitive way to fight it is to let time pass.”
The study is to be published in the journal Psychological Science (Darby & Sloutsky, 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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