Title of Dissertation: East-Asian International Counseling Trainees' Experience of Conducting Therapy in the US: A Qualitative Investigation Jingging Liu Mentor: Clara Hill
What do children remember?
What are children’s memories like? What types of information can they remember? How does memory develop over the early years of life? These are interesting and intriguing questions that can be difficult to answer because many of the research techniques that are used to study memory in adults cannot be used with very young children.
Research has shown that children’s memory develops dramatically up until the age of 6 or 7 after which it is similar to adult memory in many ways. The period between ages 3 and 6 appears to be particularly important. During this time span the number of events children can remember about their past increases linearly and the amount of information they can recall about these events doubles.
One of the distinctions that has been proposed and studied in adult memory is a difference between a recollective memory process and a familiarity memory process. Recollection occurs when a person can retrieve distinct details about an event from memory. Seeing an actor in a film and remembering other films you’ve seen that the actor in is an example of recollection. Familiarity is usually thought of as a sense that something has been experienced before without necessarily being able to remember specific details about that previous experience. Seeing an actor that you know you’ve seen in other films but not being able to remember anything about those other films is an example of familiarity.
A child’s ability to remember events from the past is a form of recollective memory. Behavioral research on familiarity in children’s memory is not as well developed because many of the techniques that are used to study familiarity are not well suited for use with very young children.
Neuroanatomical evidence leads one to think that familiarity and recollective processes may follow different developmental paths in children. The entorhinal region in the medial temporal lobe of the brain has been shown to be an important neural substrate for familiarity-based memory processes; the hippocampus, which is also located in the medial temporal lobe, has been shown to be a neural substrate for recollective processes (see the image on the left). Postnatal development of the entorhinal region takes place primarily during the first year of life while postnatal development in the areas of the hippocampus that are critical for recollective memory takes place primarily during years 3 through 5. This suggests that children’s familiarity-based memory may develop well before recollection-based memory.
Much of the work that has identified different areas of the medial temporal lobe with familiarity and recollective memory processes has used neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI which are not suitable for use with very young children. In an attempt to address this problem, Dr. Tracy Riggins has developed a procedure using electrophysiological techniques to measure event-related potentials (ERPS) that can be used with very young children and that may be able to tease apart if memories are based on either familiarity or recollection.
Dr. Riggins has also developed and tested a behavioral experimental paradigm that can used to effectively measure recollection and familiarity in very young children. Combining the behavioral paradigm with the ERP measurement procedure has the potential to directly link functional developments in different types of memory processes (familiarity and recollection) to the age-related development of the neural substrates that support these memory processes. This research is likely to provide important information about how different memory processes develop during early childhood and thereby provide insight into questions about what children can remember.