What Children Recall About a Repeated Event When One Instance Is Different From the Others

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Abstract

This research examined whether a memorable and unexpected change (deviation details) presented during 1 instance of a repeated event facilitated children’s memory for that instance and whether a repeated event facilitated children’s memory for deviation details. In Experiments 1 and 2, 8-year-olds (N = 167) watched 1 or 4 live magic shows. Children were interviewed about the last or only show, which did or did not contain deviation details. Children reported more accurate information about the instance when deviation details were presented than when they were not, but repeated experience did not improve memory for deviation details. In Experiment 3, children (N = 145; 6- to 11-year-olds) participated in 4 magic shows and answered questions about each one. Deviation details were manipulated such that they caused a change in how the show was experienced (continuous) or had no such effect on the rest of the show (discrete). Younger, but not older, children’s recall of all instances improved when a continuous deviation occurred compared to no deviation. Implications for how deviation details are represented in memory, as well as forensic applications of the findings, are discussed.

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