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J Exp Child Psychol. 2014 Feb;118:143-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Nov 7.

One of these things is not like the other: distinctiveness and executive function in preschoolers.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677, USA. Electronic address: semille5@olemiss.edu.


There is scant evidence that children younger than 7 years show a memory advantage for distinct information, a memory phenomenon termed the isolation effect (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2001, Vol. 27, pp. 1359-1366). We investigated whether 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds' developing organizational processing and executive function contributed to the isolation effect, demonstrated when recall was better for a semantically unique target (e.g., sheep, pig, watermelon, duck) rather than a semantically common target (e.g., apple, banana, watermelon, strawberry). To encourage organizational processing, children were asked to categorize each item presented. Children also completed working memory and cognitive flexibility tasks, and only children who scored high in cognitive flexibility demonstrated the isolation effect.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Cognitive flexibility; Distinctiveness in memory; Executive function; Isolation effect; Organizational processing; Working memory

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