The effect of contextual cues on children's ability to remember an occurrence of a repeated event

Donald Thomson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose. This study examined the usefulness of contextual cues in enhancing the accuracy of children's narrative accounts of an occurrence of a repeated event. Method, Children aged 6 to 7 years took part in the same staged event four times whereby 16 target details varied in each occurrence (e.g. the colour of a cloak varied each time). Three days later, the children's free recall of the final occurrence was elicited. This occurrence was identified in one of two ways. Either it was identified via the temporal term 'last', or else the term 'last' was combined with a feature related to the environmental context or setting that was unique to the occurrence (i.e., the interviewer referred to a new object that was worn throughout the occurrence or a new person who carried out the event). For each condition, performance was compared to that of children who experienced the event only once. Results, Children's memory of details specific to the target occurrence was better after the single than the repeated event. However for both event types, children who were given the contextual and temporal cue performed better than those who were given the temporal cue only. The benefit of using a contextual cue did not result in an increase in errors. Conclusion, Contextual cues (generated by an interviewer) can facilitate children's recall of an occurrence of an event. However, further research needs to determine whether this finding would generalize to a more practical situation where the child (rather than the interviewer) generates the cues.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)39-50
    Number of pages12
    JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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