Developmental Aspects Of Errorless Learning and the Generation Effect
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Purpose: This study examined the role of the developmental decrease in interference and increase in semantic knowledge/fluency on the effectiveness of Errorless (EL) versus Errorful (EF) learning in children. The first goal of this study was to compare EL to EF learning in children ages 8 to 16 and to determine whether differences in EL versus EF learning are related to age. The second goal was to examine the degree to which the generation of items based on semantic definitions improves the benefit of EL learning and whether this benefit increases with age. The third goal of the study was to explore the relationship between the ability to inhibit irrelevant responses and performance in EF learning conditions in children. The fourth goal of the study was to examine the relationship between verbal and category fluency and memory performance when participants generated their own responses. Method: Sixty children ages 8 to 16 were tested over two sessions. In the first session, measures assessing intellectual functioning, verbal fluency and inhibition were administered, and in the second session, children learned lists of words under five different conditions (Errorless-Experimenter Provided, Errorless-Subject Generated, Errorful- Experimenter provided, Errorful-Subject Generated, and a Baseline condition). Childrens memory for each list was tested under immediate free recall and cued recall. Results: EL learning was superior to EF learning for cued but not for free recall. However, this advantage was not related to age. No significant effect of word generation was found. For free recall, the EL-EP condition was superior to both the baseline and EL-SG conditions, and for cued recall, the EL-EP condition was superior to both the EF-SG and EF-EP conditions. Contrary to expectations, there were no significant correlations between the verbal and category fluency measures and performance in the self-generation conditions in the total sample. Similarly, in the total sample, there were no significant correlations between the inhibition measures and the EF learning conditions. However, for the third age group (ages 14-16), a significant positive correlation was found between learning in the EF-SG free recall condition and category fluency and between EF-SG free and cued recall and inhibition. EF-EP free and cued recall was also related to Inhibition/Switching for the second age group (ages 11-13). Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that EL learning may be superior to EF learning under certain cued recall conditions. The failure to find an effect of self-generation supports the notion that self-generation effect may be dependent on the nature of the initial encoding and retrieval demands. Implications for future research and understanding childrens memory are discussed in the context of developmental theories of memory and executive functioning, and transfer-appropriate processing.