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Mem Cognit. 1991 Mar;19(2):159-67.

The spacing effect in young children's free recall: support for automatic-process explanations.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Villanova University, PA 19085.


The effect of spacing repetitions on children's free recall was investigated in two experiments. In Experiment 1, both 4-year-old children and 7-year-old children exhibited a spacing effect in free recall, and the magnitude of the effect did not change with age. In Experiment 2, free recall was examined as a function of spacing, age (3 years old vs. 4 years old) and presentation rate (1 vs. 2 vs. 5 sec per stimulus). A spacing effect was obtained that did not differ as a function of age or presentation rate. Of particular interest was the fact that 3-year-olds exhibited a strong spacing effect even when stimuli were presented at a very rapid 1-sec rate. The results support the hypothesis that fundamental memory mechanisms that operate relatively automatically are sufficient to produce a spacing effect in free recall.

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