Reconstructive and reproductive processes in children's recall for prose structure and content

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The present study explored the interaction of reconstructive and reproductive memory processes in children’s recall for stories. Specifically, kindergartners, second-graders, and fourth-graders were compared on accuracy measures of both recall structure and content as a function of the form of the presented story and the recall instructions provided. Forty-six kindergartners, 45 second-graders, and 48 fourth-graders listened to four two-episode stories. In two of the stories, the episodes were presented separately (standard story form); in the remaining two stories, propositions from the first and second episodes alternated (interleaved story form). Following a distractor task, children were asked to retell the story either, 1) exactly as they heard it, 2) making a “good” story out of it, or 3) without specific instructions. Multiple measures of structural and content recall accuracy were obtained. The general findings contradict those of Mandler and DeForest (1979) in suggesting that older children adopt a non-schematic (reproductive) recall strategy with regard to story structure. Further, the results for the content accuracy measures show that second- and fourth-graders remember fewer presented words verbatim and produce more theme-relevant elaborations, substitutions, and inferences than younger children. Clearly both story structure and content must be considered in evaluating developmental trends in reconstructive and reproductive recall.