Children's understanding of retrieval cue utilization

William V. Fabricius, Henry M. Wellman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


To understand the logic of effective cue utilization, one must know not only that cues are useful but that a specific cue is useful only if it is located where one will be when it is time to remember, and placed so one will encounter it automatically. This experiment investigated 16 1st, 16 2nd, and 16 5th graders' knowledge of the use of retrieval cues to aid memory. Stories representing effective and ineffective cue locations were constructed. Many 1st graders believed that all cue locations were effective; the discrimination of ineffective locations showed a clear order of acquisition by age. Those 1st graders had little understanding of external retrieval cues as mnemonic means. As soon as Ss achieved this understanding, it was coordinated with temporal requirements for using cues effectively. However, full understanding of the temporal criteria required a series of developments. Ss at first knew only that a cue encountered after the time to do the task would be ineffective. Next, Ss understood that a cue would be ineffective if it were encountered after the time one had to remember to do the task. Most 5th graders knew that even a cue encountered before the task would be ineffective if the cue appeared greatly in advance of the time one had to remember. Results are discussed in terms of the importance of investigating children's integrated knowledge, or theories, about memory. (13 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • understanding of retrieval cue placement &
  • utilization, 1st vs 2nd vs 6th graders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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