A DEVELOPMENTAL STUDY OF REVERSIBILITY IN WORD ASSOCIATIONS (MEMORY ORGANIZATION, MNEMONICS, COGNITIVE FLEXIBILITY)
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The current study investigates the ability of children to use reversible operations in memory. Specifically, the study tested children's ability to generate or recall information from opposite orders than the common or learned ones. Two tasks, both involving word associations, were administered to 6 year olds, 8 year olds, and adults. Word associations were chosen as stimuli because they can be reversed (e.g., sit - down, down - sit).;In Task 1 subjects heard words (A) and gave free associations (B). One week later they heard their B responses and generated associates (C). Any pair was deemed reversible if A and C were the same word. Results demonstrated a three-stage developmental trend towards an increasing number of pairs reversed. Six year olds did not give reversed associations, possibly because they generated associates based on language contiguity (e.g., sit - down) and the semantically meaningless reversed associations (e.g., down - sit) were not contiguous. Older children generated and reversed associates (e.g., sit - stand) which are meaningful in reversed order (e.g., stand - sit). Only adults were truly reversible. Even when they generated associates with meaningfulness in only the forward order (e.g., sit - down) they often gave the meaningless reversed associate (e.g., down - sit).;In Task 2 a list of word pairs, meaningful in only the forward (A-B) order was heard by the same subjects in mixed A-B and B-A presentation orders. Then either the A or B word from each pair was presented, for subjects to recall its associate. It was found that presentation order did not affect recall at any age. A developmental trend emerged with respect to the facilitating effects of A cues. To explain the facilitation, it is hypothesized that upon hearing A cues, all subjects who could not recall the targets tended to guess with different B associates (e.g., sit - chair). There was a speculated increasing developmental trend towards silently generating multiple associates and accurately recognizing the B stimulus once silently generated. Older individuals, therefore, develop mnemonic strategies utilizing overlearned associations to enhance recall of new learning.;Both tasks indicate a developmentally increasing flexibility of memory, through reversible free associations and increased utilization of mnemonic strategies.