Reenactment

One way children are reminded of a past event is by physically repeating all or part of the event at another time. This procedure, reenactment, is similar to multiple training trials in that children physically reproduce some or all of the actions they learned in the past. We consider reenactment to be the most complete and concrete type of reminder. Not only do children actively participate in their retraining, but they interact directly with the experimenter, providing additional context for their experience. Our reenactment research began with an investigation of its effects on 18-month-olds' long-term memory (Hudson & Sheffield, 1998). The reenactment procedure was conducted in the following manner: During the training session, children visited our laboratory playroom and were shown how to perform eight novel, two-step activities using an elicited imitation procedure. The activities were designed to be interesting for 18-month-olds, but not to be things that they could discover on their own without training (such as finding a hidden box of fish food so that they can feed the goldfish or pressing a stuffed bear's paw to make it talk). Some time after training, children returned to the laboratory for a reenactment session. First, children were allowed 10 minutes of free play in the playroom to see if they would spontaneously produce the target actions. Next, the experimenter provided verbal prompts for any of the activities the child had not performed, such as "What could we do with this toy?" Finally, if children failed to produce the target actions after prompting, the experimenter demonstrated the action for the child and encouraged the child to imitate so that

TABLE 9.1

Schedule of Conditions, Reenactment Experiments

Condition

Training

Reenactment

Test

Long-term Test

Renactment conditions Immediate 2-week 8-week

Control conditions 1 visit

No reenactment 1 visit (26 mos.)

Subset A Subset B

Experiments 1 and 2: Effects of Timing

Day 1 Day 1 Day 1

Day 1

Day 1 2 weeks 8 weeks

8 weeks 10 weeks 16 weeks

8 weeks 8 weeks

Experiment 3: Subset Reenactment

Day 1 2 weeks 8 weeks

Day 1 2 weeks 8 weeks

8 months 8 months 10 months

8 months

Source: Hudson & Sheffield (1998).

all children reenacted all of the activities during the reenactment session. After another time delay, children returned to the laboratory for a recall test session when they were encouraged to reproduce the target actions in the same way as in the reenactment session.

Three reenactment conditions were included in this study (see Table 9.1). An immediate reenactment group re-enacted the activities on the same day as their training. After they were shown how to perform the activities, they left the playroom for 15 minutes before returning for an immediate (same day) reenactment session. They then returned to the laboratory 8 weeks later for a recall test session. Children in the 2-week reenactment condition returned 2 weeks after training for reenactment and were also tested for recall 8 weeks later, 10 weeks after training. Children in the 8-week reenactment condition returned 8 weeks after training for reenactment and were tested for recall 8 weeks later, 16 weeks after training. Thus, across reenactment conditions, the interval between training and reenact-ment varied but the interval between reenactment and testing was the same for all groups.

Two control groups were also included in this study. The one visit control group was not provided with training, but participated in a recall session just like the other groups. This group controlled for the potential for children to simply figure out what to do with the toys when given verbal prompts. Children in the no reenactment condition were trained to perform the activities and were tested for recall 8 weeks later, but did not participate in a reenactment session.

Results indicated that, regardless of when the reminder occurred, reenactment extended 18-month-olds' recall: As shown in Figure 9.1, all reenactment groups recalled more activities than the control groups. But equally important, the timing of reenactment strongly influenced children's recall. Reenactment was more effective after a significant time delay; children in the 8-week reenact-ment condition recalled significantly more actions in recall testing than children in the immediate and 2-week reenactment conditions. Similar to results from infant research, reminders may be more effective when presented after an experience has been stored in long-term memory. One reason for this may be that retrieval involves more reconstruction when the memory is almost forgotten then when memory traces are new and more coherent (Rovee-Collier, 1995).

In a follow-up investigation, we contacted participants from the reenactment conditions and asked them to return to the laboratory 6 months after their last visit. We were curious if children would show evidence of recall after such a long interval. We compared the performance of the returning participants to the performance of naive 26-month-olds to test whether the returning subjects were actually remembering their prior experiences and were not simply better able to infer how to use the props. Timing effects were even stronger in long-term recall. As shown in Figure 9.2, even 6 months later, children who had reenacted the activities after 8 weeks recalled more activities than children in the other two reenactment groups. In fact, children's performance in the immediate reenactment

o cu

Figure 9.1 Mean number of actions recalled across experimental and control conditions with standard error bars, Reenactment Experiment 1. From Hudson & Sheffield (1998).

Immediate 2-week 8-week 1 visit No reenactment reenactment reenactment reenactment

Figure 9.1 Mean number of actions recalled across experimental and control conditions with standard error bars, Reenactment Experiment 1. From Hudson & Sheffield (1998).

condition was not significantly better than that of children in the one visit control group at the 6-month test session. Thus, even for very young children, early memories may be retained for extremely long intervals if the children are given the opportunity to reenact events and if reenactment occurs at an opportune time.

Finally, we conducted another experiment to investigate whether reenacting a subset of the activities also enhances children's recall of the entire event. Two groups of 18-month-olds reenacted four of the original eight activities (either subset A or subset B) 2 weeks after training and were tested for memory of all activities 8 weeks later (see Table 9.1). The focus of this study was whether performing half of the activities (partial reenactment) could remind children of all the activities, including those that were not reenacted. We did not vary the timing of reenactment in this experiment and the 2-week

TO 6

EE 3

Immediate 2-week 8-week 1 visit reenactment reenactment reenactment

Figure 9.2 Mean number of actions recalled in long-term recall with standard error bars, Reenactment Experiment 2. From Hudson & Sheffield (1998).

point was selected as convenient point of comparison. Results showed that there were no significant differences in level of recall between the full reenactment and subset reenactment conditions, indicating that partial reenactment was as effective as full reenactment in reminding children of the original actions. This finding suggests that 18-month-olds encode and store event memories in an associative network linked in memory by the common temporal and spatial context of the event. Reinstatement of some of the event therefore activated memory for all of the event components. Our research on reinstatement provides further support for this interpretation.

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