Developmental Science

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Volume 21 Issue 2 (March 2018), Pages

The ontogeny of relational memory and pattern separation


Episodic memory relies on memory for the relations among multiple elements of an event and the ability to discriminate among similar elements of episodes. The latter phenomenon, termed pattern separation, has been studied mainly in young and older adults with relatively little research on children. Building on prior work with young children, we created an engaging computer‐administered relational memory task assessing what‐where relations. We also modified the Mnemonic Similarity Task used to assess pattern discrimination in young and older adults for use with preschool children. Results showed that 4‐year‐olds performed significantly worse than 6‐year‐olds and adults on both tasks, whereas 6‐year‐olds and adults performed comparably, even though there were no ceiling effects. However, performance on the two tasks did not correlate, suggesting that two distinct mnemonic processes with different developmental trajectories may contribute to age‐related changes in episodic memory.

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