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Pre-event discussion and recall of a novel event: How are children best prepared

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Pre-event discussion and recall of a novel event: How are children best prepared
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  0022-0965/$ - see front matter ©  2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2005.03.006J. Experimental Child Psychology 91 (2005) 342–366www.elsevier.com/locate/jecp Pre-event discussion and recall of a novel event: How are children best prepared? Fiona McGuigan, Karen Salmon ¤ School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia Received 26 August 2004; revised 13 February 2005Available online 4 May 2005 Abstract We investigated the conditions under which information 1 day before a novel event in X uenced6-year-olds’ recall 2 weeks later. In Experiment 1A, four preparation conditions included either theevent goals, goals with narration of the event actions and objects, photographs of the objects withgoals and narration, or photographs with narration and child verbalization of the actions andobjects. Compared with an irrelevant preparation control condition, goals with narration reducederrors, but correct recall was increased only when photographs were included. Child verbalizationtogether with goals, narration, and photographs increased correct recall relative to goals with nar-ration. In Experiment 1B, neither photographs nor preparation alone improved recall relative tothe control condition. Experiment 2 found no further advantage of increasing children’s participa-tion in the preparation via questions. Overall, the impact of preevent information on memory isin X uenced by the nature of the information and the child’s participation in the preparation. ©  2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Keywords: Event memory; Adult–child discussion; Preparation Introduction Under what circumstances does information about a novel future event increaseyoung children’s knowledge of that event? That is, how do we ensure that the * Corresponding author. Fax: +64 2 9385 3641. E-mail address:  k.salmon@unsw.edu.au (K. Salmon).  F. McGuigan, K. Salmon / Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 91 (2005) 342–366  343 information discussed in advance is integrated with the child’s representation of the event in memory? The response to these questions has important implications.A signi W cant proportion of discussion between parents and their young children isdirected toward future events, presumably to increase the children’s knowledgeand understanding of these experiences (Hudson, 2002; Lucariello & Nelson, 1987). Although a strong body of research shows that adult–child talk during orafter an event in X uences young children’s recall of the experience (e.g., Leichtman,Pillemer, Wang, Koreishi, & Han, 2000; Tessler & Nelson, 1994), very little research has investigated the impact of discussion before an event. In pediatric set-tings as well, parents or sta V   often tell children about the details of an upcomingmedical procedure and may supplement the information with toys and models, sto-rybooks, or W lms (e.g., Goodman, Quas, Batterman-Faunce, Riddlesberger, &Kuhn, 1997; Phillips, Watson, & MacKinlay, 1998; Powers, 1999; Spa V  ord, vonBaeyer, & Hicks, 2002; Steward, 1993; Suls & Wan, 1989; Zelikovsky, Rodrigue, Gidycz, & Davis, 2000). Research has shown that discussion during or after a med-ical procedure can enhance young children’s recall (Chen, Zeltzer, Craske, & Katz,1999; Salmon, McGuigan, & Pereira, 2004), but no research has investigated the impact on memory of discussion before an event, whether alone or supplementedwith visual information.We aimed to address this research gap by investigating the conditions under whichpre-event information enhances 6-year-olds’ recall of a novel staged event, a “visit tothe pretend zoo.” We asked whether, relative to a control condition, pre-event discus-sion with and without visually presented information boosts the children’s memoryof the event. In addition, we examined whether increasing the children’s participationin the preparation further bene W ts recall.Although limited work directly addresses the in X uence of pre-event discussion,much research shows that prior knowledge in X uences how information isencoded, stored, and retrieved. Children who have greater knowledge in aparticular domain perform better on memory tasks relevant to that domain(Bjorklund, 1987; Chi, 1978; Greenhoot, 2000). Moreover, from the preschool years, children’s recall is in X uenced by their generalized knowledge about events(scripts) derived from repeated personal experiences (Hudson, Fivush, & Kuebli,1992; Myles-Worsley, Cromer, & Dodd, 1986; Nelson, 1986). General event knowledge might not, however, be the optimal form of preparation for a novelevent. Sutherland, Pipe, Schick, Murray, and Gobbo (2003) investigated the impact of general or speci W c preparation on 5- to 7-year-olds’ recall of a stagedevent, “visiting the pirate.” The day before the event, some children receivedevent-speci W c preparation; they were read and discussed an illustrated story thatdescribed what would happen during the pirate event. Other children receivedevent-general preparation; they were engaged in discussion of general knowledgeof pirates unrelated to what would happen during the event. A control groupdiscussed a nonpirate topic. Relative to general preparation, event-speci W c prepa-ration elicited more detailed accounts of the event when children were intervieweda few days later. In contrast, talking about “what pirates do” did not improverecall.  344 F. McGuigan, K. Salmon / Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 91 (2005) 342–366  Prior discussion alone, without visual support (which was available in Sutherlandet al., 2003), may nonetheless have a weak impact on young children’s recall even if the discussion is speci W c to the event. McGuigan and Salmon (2004) compared thein X uence of the timing of adult–child talk (2 to 3 days before, during, or 2 to 3 daysafter) about a staged event (visiting the pretend zoo) on 3- and 5-year-olds’ recall of that event 2 weeks later. Whereas post-event adult–child talk had the strongest in X u-ence on recall, pre-event discussion did not increase the correct information reportedfor children of either age group. Its in X uence was limited to the reduction of errorsrelative to a control condition in which the children experienced empty talk (e.g.,“Now we are going to do this”).The limited e V  ect of pre-event talk might be due to its being too poorly encoded tobe integrated with the information from the event (Murachver, Pipe, Gordon, &Owens, 1996; Sutherland et al., 2003). Talk after the event, in contrast, occurs in the context of a representation established previously through direct experience andencoded in multiple modalities, rendering it more likely that the post-event talk willbe integrated with the existing event memory (e.g., Bellezza, Winkler, & Andrasik,1975; Young & Bellezza, 1982). The encoding of pre-event talk is likely to be furthercompromised by young children’s limited ability to reason about future relative topast experiences (Friedman, 2003; Hudson, 2002). For example, in sequencing pic- tures of daily activities, 4- and 5-year-olds were more accurate when the activitieswere referenced to “the known past” than when they were referenced to “theunknown future” (Benson, 1997, p. 68).These considerations suggest that improving the encoding of pre-event informa-tion may increase its impact on memory and that one way in which to do this may beto supplement discussion with visual information. Indeed, children’s recall of aurallypresented prose passages is enhanced by the simultaneous presentation of pictures,which are most e V  ective when they overlap with the story content but are nonredun-dant (Holmes, 1987; Lesgold, Levin, Shimron, & Guttman, 1975; Small, Lovett, & Sher, 1993). Moreover, the boost to recall is over and above the impact of simplypresenting the verbal material twice (Levin, Bender, & Lesgold, 1976). In the current research, therefore, we investigated the relative impact on children’s recall of prepa-ration conveyed verbally and also when supplemented with photographs. Weselected photographs because they provide maximal feature overlap with aspects of the event while also conveying spatial and descriptive information that is not avail-able in even a detailed narration (e.g., Deocampo & Hudson, 2003; Salmon, 2001). Given the research outlined here, these factors may maximize the likelihood thatencoding of the preparation will be strengthened and the information will be inte-grated with the event (Small et al., 1993; Sutherland et al., 2003). A second factor that may account for the relative lack of impact of preparatorytalk on children’s memory is that when the event is novel, children have limited par-ticipation in the conversation. Yet children’s contribution potentially has signi W cantbene W ts. For example, children demonstrate superior recall of the activities discussedby both their mothers and themselves as an event unfolds compared with thosetalked about only by their mothers or not discussed (Haden, Ornstein, Eckerman, &Didow, 2001; see also Farrant & Reese, 2000). Furthermore, children who engage in  F. McGuigan, K. Salmon / Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 91 (2005) 342–366  345 during- or post-event talk recall a greater proportion of the items that they generatedduring the talk than were narrated by their adult conversational partner (McGuigan& Salmon, 2004). The memorial bene W t of children’s participation in adult–child dis-cussion is consistent with W ndings that self-generated material is better rememberedby adults and children than is material that is read or heard (the “generation e V  ect”).Proposed explanations include that generation promotes deeper and more completeencoding and retrieval practice for the memory test (e.g., Brown & Craik, 2000;McNamara & Healy, 1995; Schmidt & Bjork, 1992). In McGuigan and Salmon’s (2004) experiment, however, the impact of generating information prior to the eventwas not investigated. In the current experiments, we examined whether recall wasfacilitated by asking children to verbalize the preparatory narration following its pre-sentation by the experimenter (Experiment 1A) or to respond to questions about theactions and objects in the upcoming event and make associations with their own pastexperiences (Experiment 2). Experiment 1A In Experiment 1A, we compared the e V  ectiveness of four types of preparation asmeans of facilitating 6-year-olds’ recall of the event, a visit to the pretend zoo. Weselected 6-year-olds because we have previously found that they do not show signi W -cant memorial bene W t from verbal preparation and we wished to compare those ear-lier W ndings with our current results for children of the same age (McGuigan &Salmon, 2004).In one condition, the children were provided with the goals of the event, whichwere stated verbally and accompanied by a generic computer-generated drawing tofocus the children’s attention (e.g., a prototypal picture of a gira V  e as children weretold the goal of “tidying up gira V  e”). Providing the event goals may boost encodingand increase children’s understanding by highlighting the event structure and theassociations between the actions and objects (Ratner & Foley, 1994; Trabasso &Stein, 1997; Wenner, 2004). In the second condition, the children were provided with the goals and complete narration in which all components of the event were labeledand described by the adult; this condition was identical to the pre-event and duringevent discussion in McGuigan and Salmon (2004). In the third condition, in addition to the goals and narration, the children were presented with photographs of objectsfrom the event. As we noted earlier, visual information is likely to enhance encoding,and photographs may be particularly e V  ective given their high degree of feature over-lap with the objects in the event itself. In the fourth condition, in addition to beingpresented with goals, narrative, and photographs, the children were encouraged toverbalize aspects of the event to capitalize on the bene W ts to encoding of generatinginformation (the generation e V  ect). Child verbalization entailed the children’s restat-ing the objects and actions from each activity in the event following the experi-menter’s narration. An attention control condition consisted of adult–childdiscussion unrelated to the upcoming event. Therefore, the children were allocated toeither the control condition or one of the four preparation conditions: (a) goals, (b)  346 F. McGuigan, K. Salmon / Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 91 (2005) 342–366  goals+narration, (c) goals+narration+photographs, or (d) goals+narration+photographs+verbalization. All preparation sessions took place 1 day before partic-ipating in a staged event, a visit to the pretend zoo, and children were interviewed 2weeks later.In light of the W ndings of McGuigan and Salmon (2004), we predicted that, rela-tive to the control condition, pre-event talk without either photographs or childverbalization (goals+narration condition) would decrease the number of errorsmade but would not increase the correct information reported; the same patternmight be found for goals only. Furthermore, we expected that children preparedwith photographs (goals+narration+photographs and goals+narration+photographs   +verbalization conditions) would report more correct informationthan would children prepared with pre-event talk only (goals and goals+narrationconditions). Finally, we anticipated that children who were engaged in verbaliza-tion during the preparation (goals+narration+photographs+verbalizationcondition) would report more correct information than would children in all otherconditions. Method  Participants The participants were 81 6-year-olds (37 girls and 44 boys, M  D 70.14 months, SD D 3.95, range D 63–78). The children were recruited with parental consent from W ve schools in Sydney, Australia, and varied in their ethnic background and socio-economic status. Materials Preparation Seven laminated boards, each measuring 65 £ 75cm, were used. On six of thesephoto boards, four to six photographs were presented depicting the props associatedwith each activity of the event (one board per activity). One board (the “goalsboard”) presented a summary of the six activities of the event. In a vertical list, thewords zoo-keeper ,  gira  V  e , lion , koala , monkey , and baby elephant  were presented incolor, and under each word was a computer-generated picture of the relevant animalor, in the case of the zoo-keeper, a hat and shirt. The pictures were included to maxi-mize children’s attention as they were guided through the goals board and to elimi-nate any advantage to those children who could read. The generic pictures did notcontain speci W c features of the props in the event. Event The event, a visit to the pretend zoo, was structured according to six core activities,each associated with an overarching goal. A set of props created the event context andconsisted of four movable animals; a gira V  e, a lion, a koala, and a monkey. Each ani-mal measured approximately 1.5 £ 0.75m; was made with felt, fur, and stu Y ng; and
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