Children's and Adults' Memory for Television Stories: The Role of Causal Factors, Story-Grammar Categories, and Hierarchical Level

Paul Van Den Broek, Elizabeth Pugzles Lorch, Richard Thurlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations

Abstract

What events from televised stories do preschool children and adults remember? In this study, we examined the extent to which 4-year-old and 6-year-old children's and adults' free recall of events from "Sesame Street" stories is determined by the role the events play in the story structure. Events varied with respect to 4 structural properties: number of causal connections, status on or off the story's causal chain, story-grammar category, and position in the story's hierarchical structure. There were systematic developmental differences in the effects of these properties on recall. First, memory at all ages was strongly influenced by the 2 causal factors, but effects of these factors increased with age. Second, children emphasized actions in their recall, whereas adults most frequently recalled protagonists' goals and events that initiated these goals. Third, children's recall increased as the hierarchical level of events increased, whereas adults most frequently recalled (causally more important) events at intermediate levels. These findings demonstrate that preschool children are already sensitive to structural features of televised narratives but that utilization of the causal-motivational structure of narratives increases systematically with age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3010-3028
Number of pages19
JournalChild Development
Volume67
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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