Memorability in Context: A Heuristic Story

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Abstract

We examined children’s ability to employ a metacognitive heuristic based on memorability expectations to reduce false recognitions, and explored whether these expectations depend on the context in which the items are presented. Specifically, 4-, 6-, and 9-year-old children were presented with high-, medium-, and low-memorability words, either mixed together (Experiment 1) or separated into two different lists (Experiment 2). Results revealed that only children with a higher level of executive functioning (9-year-olds) used the memorability-based heuristic when all types of items were presented within the same list. However, all children, regardless of age or executive level, implemented the metacognitive rule when high- and low-memorability words were presented in two separate lists. Moreover, the results of Experiment 2 showed that participants processed medium-memorability words more conservatively when they were presented in a low- than in a high-memorability list, suggesting that children’s memorability expectations are sensitive to list-context effects.

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