Reinstatement With Representational Reminders

Our recent research has focused on children's ability to use information presented in various media as reminders of past events. With a video simulation reminder, children watch a video tape of an event instead of a live model. With photograph reminders, children view photographs of past events with or without accompanying verbal narration. Finally, in a model simulation experiment, children view an experimenter perform the actions using a small-scale model replica of the room and props used in the original event. Each type of reminder provides different kinds of information about events using different symbolic systems. Videos can provide action information whereas photographs are only static images. Model simulations provide action information via live events, however, children view actions performed on small-scale replicas, not the original objects. The small-scale objects are used to symbolize the original objects.

By varying the type of reminder, we can examine the effects of different amounts of event information on reinstatement. As discussed above, videos, photographs and scale models provide varying amounts and types of event information. We can also use the media to manipulate the amount of information provided in different types of reminders. For example, a videotape may show children all of the actions they experienced in the past or only some of the actions. Reminders can therefore vary in terms of the medium of representation as well as the amount of information provided about a past event and each of these variables may affect their effectiveness in reinstating young children's memories.

By examining effects of these different types of reminders, we can also examine children's ability to use different types of representations to cue their memories. DeLoache and her colleagues (DeLoache, 1990; DeLoache & Burns, 1994; DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, & Troseth, 1996; Troseth & DeLoache, 1998) have found that children under 3 years of age often fail to appreciate how external representations such as scale models, photographs, and videos can be used to represent specific real-world contexts. They propose that young children lack representational insight, that is, the understanding of how external representations function as symbols of real-world referents. However, it is not clear that representational insight is necessary for a symbol to serve as a reminder of a past event. We (Deocampo & Hudson, 2003) have suggested that recall cueing may be a more implicit process (e.g., Brainerd, Reyna, Howe, & Kingma, 1990; Spear, 1978; Tulving, 1983) that requires matching retrieval cues to memory traces, but does not require explicit awareness of the symbol-referent relationship. Comparing children's performance on symbolic tasks that require representational insight to their use of symbolic reminders in reinstatement tasks can address this issue.

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