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Volume 5 Issue 4 (November 2002), Pages iii-iii, F9-F16, 397-516

Developmental changes in source memory (pages 502-513)

Remembering how one learned a fact can be important in itself (e.g. for considering the value of information). However, source memory is also important, along with the temporal and perceptual information on which it is based, in giving memory an episodic or autobiographical quality. The present study investigated developmental changes in children’s ability to monitor source, in a paradigm adapted from Schacter, Harbluk and McLachlan (1984). This task, unlike previous source monitoring tasks used with children, has the potential to show the existence of a serious kind of source error called source amnesia. Children of 4, 6 and 8 years participated. They also completed measures believed to assess prefrontal function. Children showed a steady improvement with age in their ability to remember facts, but showed abrupt improvement between 4 and 6 years in their ability to monitor the source of those facts. Most notably, 4–year–old children displayed a great deal of source amnesia (i.e. errors of the kind committed by populations with frontal dysfunction), but 6– and 8–year–old children showed very few such errors. In addition, source memory was related, in some analyses although not in others, to behavioral measures often used to assess prefrontal functioning. The timing of the transition in source monitoring ability is discussed, including implications for childhood amnesia.

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