Context reinstatement effects in children's cued recall of strongly and weakly associated word pairs

Paul M. Dietze, Stefanie J. Sharman, Martine B. Powell, Donald M. Thomson

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Typically, asking people to reinstate the context of events increases their recall of those events; however, research findings have been mixed with children. We tested whether the principle underlying context reinstatement applies to children as it does to adults. This underlying principle, encoding specificity, suggests that the greater the overlap between study context cues and retrieval context cues, the more information that people should recall. In the current experiment, four age groups (7-year-olds, 9-year-olds, 11-year-olds and adults) took part in an encoding specificity procedure. At study, participants saw cue- target word pairs in which the cue word was either a strong or a weak associate of the target word (e.g., ice-COLD; blow-COLD). During an immediate cued recall test, participants were presented with the same strong or weak cue words and new, extra-list cue words. Overall, children and adults recalled more targets when they were presented with the same cue words at study and test, regardless of whether the cues were strong or weak. This finding suggests that encoding specificity applies to children as well as adults. We discuss the implications of these results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalThe Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Context reinstatement
  • Cued recall

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